Calico Aster (Aster lateriflorus)
Now Symphyotrichum lateriflorum. Calico Asters are quite variable. “Consists of many races,” say Britton & Brown of this species, “differing in leaf-form, inflorescence and pubescence.” In other words, asters thumb their noses at the notion of a “species.” Some Calico Asters have their flowers so densely packed that you can’t see the leaves, as with this example from an overgrown bank in Beechview. Compare it to this other Calico Aster, from one block away in the same neighborhood.
From Gray’s Manual: A. lateriflorus (L.) Britton. More or less pubescent, much branched ; leaves lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate, tapering or pointed at each end, sharply serrate in the middle; bracts of the involucre linear, acute or rather obtuse, imbricated in 3-4 rows. (A. diffusus Ait.) Thickets, fields, etc., very common from N. S. to Ont., and southw. Aug.-Oct. Extensively variable ; leaves larger than in either of the two preceding ; the involucre intermediate between them, as to the form of the bracts. Rays mostly short, white or pale bluish-purple.