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White Wood Aster

White Wood Aster
   Photo: Bill Crins

Features: The White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata), formerly Aster divaricatus is a plant of open, dry deciduous forests and thickets. It flowers in the fall, producing a flat-topped inflorescence consisting of numerous small flowers with white petals or "rays". The leaves near the base of the plant are heart-shaped, hence its alternative name: the Heart-leaved Aster. Leaves near the top of the plant are thinner, pointed and with sharply toothed edges.

Status: Threatened Provincially and Nationally

Range: This species is generally common throughout its main range in the Appalachian mountains, and from New England south to Georgia and Alabama. In Canada, it occurs in southwestern Quebec and at eight locations in the Niagara region of Ontario. With the exception of two sites where the population abundance has been estimated at 1,000 plants or more, populations are small and number a few hundred plants or less.

Threats: The White Wood Aster is near the northern limits of its range in Ontario and may never have been common or widespread here. Historically, it was documented from 16 sites in Ontario, whereas currently it is known from eight sites. Reasons for the declines are not known. Some of the remaining populations grow near hiking trails where there is risk of accidental trampling. At two sites, the invasive exotic weed, Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), grows in dense stands and could crowd out herbaceous native plants such as White Wood Aster.

Protection: Five of the eight identified populations in Ontario are on public land. The White Wood Aster receives legal protection under Ontario's Endangered Species Act. The Natural Heritage component of the Provincial Policy Statement under Ontario's Planning Act provides for the protection of significant habitat of threatened species.

Text Sources: Sharp et al. 1995; Thompson 2002

Last Modified Date: October 2008

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