Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Hoary tansyasters

with 17 comments

Hoary tansyasters 0118

One of the most conspicuous plants I saw flowering in many places around Albuquerque was the hoary tansyaster, formerly known scientifically as Machaeranthera canescens and now as Dieteria canescens. By whatever name, vernacular or botanical, these flowers surprised my by flourishing and being so widespread in the dry climate of central New Mexico, because I’d always associated asters with more moisture than a desert provides: shows how much I know.

Today’s view is from Petroglyph National Monument in northwest Albuquerque on September 23rd. Tomorrow’s post will skip ahead two days to southwestern Colorado and quite a different source of color.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 19, 2014 at 5:46 AM

17 Responses

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  1. Similar in appearance to our New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) that are just now finishing their fall bloom. https://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/species/symphyotrichum/novae-angliae/
    They come as close as your border.

    Steve Gingold

    October 19, 2014 at 5:51 AM

    • If your New England aster stops at the Texas border, other Symphyotrichum species are native in Austin, and I’ve been enjoying seeing them here since the return from the Southwest two weeks ago. I found out that the ones from Albuquerque are in a different genus; that may be a reflection of the different geography and climate of New Mexico.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2014 at 8:37 AM

  2. This is another I’ve never seen, and the name tickles me. I can just hear one crotchety old botanist hurling it at another in the midst of an argument filled with insults: “You hoary tansyaster!” And yet it’s such a beauty. It’s great that you were able to capture the petals in every stage of unfolding, from the still tightly-wrapped bud in the center to the half-opened ones. Those look almost like the paper flowers we used to make, curling the paper petals with scissors.


    October 19, 2014 at 6:33 AM

    • I’m once again tuned in. When I prepared this post, some of the rays reminded me of curled ribbons, and here you are talking about crating that effect by using scissors to curl ribbons.

      How anyone could’ve made up a name like hoary tansyaster is beyond me, but that’s supposely the “common” name for this species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2014 at 8:59 AM

  3. I have these in my garden, they were here before me. Interesting to learn their name. Quite widespread here too. And a very late bloomer. Even now, after frost..


    October 19, 2014 at 6:51 AM

    • There are many species of asters that look so similar that even botanists can have trouble telling them apart, so are you sure the ones you have in Norway are the same as the ones shown here?

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2014 at 9:02 AM

  4. Hoary, as in commonplace?


    October 19, 2014 at 6:59 AM

    • Yes, it”s the same word. An early sense of the word was ‘gray or white, as with age,’ and I assume this species has gray or white hairs to validate that name. From the early sense came the secondary meaning ‘venerable,’ and then ‘trite because old.’ Your ‘commonplace’ is a further extension.

      The etymological ancestor was Old English hār, which meant ‘hoarfrost.’

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2014 at 9:11 AM

      • I was studying the plant to see if I could see gray or white but those colours were not obvious in your photo. Having noticed the word “hoary”, I am of course seeing it in other places eg ” Despite much contrary data and its affront to logic, this hoary myth refuses to die…” The hoary myth being that we only use 10% of our brain.


        October 19, 2014 at 8:54 PM

        • That is a hoary myth, and I don’t know why it persists. Facts often have little to do with why people believe or don’t believe a certain thing.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 19, 2014 at 8:59 PM

          • This article tried to explain why the myth persists. It was by Patrick Kiger for National Geographic Channel.


            October 19, 2014 at 9:15 PM

  5. While hiking in the Taos region, we saw a lot of these pretty flowers.

    Jim in IA

    October 19, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    • That doesn’t surprise me at all, given all the places I saw these flowers in and around Albuquerque and from there toward the southwestern corner of Colorado.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2014 at 9:14 AM

  6. Nature can be so adaptable if giving time…Big aster fan so I love the photos. I also was also surprised to see them in quite such a dry location.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    October 19, 2014 at 1:00 PM

  7. I really like this photo~I get a sense of lightness and delicacy to the plant. Around here we see asters blooming in sand dunes, and this summer I stumbled across ladies’ tresses in the foredunes too! I associate them with wet meadows. Shows what I know!


    October 30, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    • I wish you could have seen how widespread these asters were around Albuquerque. There had been rain, and the recent watering may have given unusual vibrancy to these flowers.

      How nice that you came across ladies’ tresses in the vicinity of sand dunes; I’d like to have seen that. I associate ladies’ tresses with the rocky, hilly terrain of my part of Austin, because that’s where I get to see them, often growing beneath the shelter of the Ashe juniper trees that predominate in that environment.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 30, 2014 at 12:18 PM

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