Douglas Aster — Aster subspicatus or Aster douglasii

Mid–late September can be a lovely time of year to explore the North Coast, and on the 21st, it was a perfect day to visit Indian Beach. It’s one of those gems that looks like a live photograph that’s straight out of a surfer magazine. 

Indian Beach 1
Framing in the north edge of the beach is Tillamook head, and on the south is a string of fantastic rocks that stretch probably a mile offshore. Just to the south is Cannon Beach. Someday I’ll surf here. And yes, it’s the same spot where a surfer got bit by a shark.

Indian Beach 2
There are two paths (that I know of anyways) down to the beach. I found these on the northern path, maybe ten paces above the rocks that line the shore. It’s a thick, brushy area where blackberries, grass, salal and other plants co-exist. There were several bunches of them, but only on the eastern side of the path and only right there — I didn’t see these lavender charmers anywhere else on the path. 

Douglas' Aster — Aster subspicatus or Aster douglasii 1Douglas' Aster — Aster subspicatus or Aster douglasii 2

Being that it was getting late in flowering season, I was exstatic to find anything blooming, moreover such a happy little aster. An intersting trait that I observered was that flowers in the sun were fuller and more vigorous looking than those in the shade, even when they blooms were on the same plant. It appears that these flowers are highly photosensitive. Here were some in the sun, all full and splendid: 

Douglas' Aster — Aster subspicatus or Aster douglasii 3And here are some in the shade: 

Douglas' Aster — Aster subspicatus or Aster douglasii 4
Within minutes of picking the specimen, it withered substantially; the petals shrank so much that the flowers look a little scrappy when compared to what I saw on the path. This shot was taken about an half-hour after taking the specimen:

Douglas' Aster — Aster subspicatus or Aster douglasii 5Identifying these lovelies was pretty easy, which is nice considering I’ve had two discoveries I’ve been unable to identify at this point: undidentified saxifrage or lily and unidentified red and yellow flower. It was obviously an aster as it was similar to your basic daisy and its purple color significantly narrows the field of potential matchs. My favorite book “Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast” presented three viable options: Common California Aster, Douglas’ Aster and Leafy Aster. 

It wasn’t California Aster because the leaves of this plant were green, healthy and resistant to withering (unlike the flowers). Additionally, the flowers I saw appeared to have a larger center-to-petal ratio than the image in the book. Leafy Aster is definetely a doppleganger, but its leaves are broader and present smooth margins (edges). In the image below, you can see a few teeth on the lance-shaped leaves. Additionally, the specimen showed no signs of clasping as Leafy Aster does, which is where the leaf wraps around a stem. 

Douglas' Aster — Aster subspicatus or Aster douglasii 6
Lastly, the book noted this flower enjoys beaches, meadows and moist clearings. So, Douglas’ Aster it is! One more note: according to my source, this plant has an alternative scientific name: Aster douglassi. I wonder if the same person who “discovered” the Douglas Fir also discovered and named this plant?

Sources:

Pojar, J., MacKinnon, A., & Alaback, P. B. (1994). Revised Plants of the Pacific Northwest coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska. Redmond, WA: Lone Pine Pub. Pages 287–288

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