Eurybia furcata - (Burgess) Nesom
Forked Aster
Synonym(s): Aster furcatus Burgess
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Eurybia furcata (Burgess) G.L. Nesom (TSN 513442)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.152711
Element Code: PDASTEB0H0
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Aster Family
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Asterales Asteraceae Eurybia
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Concept Reference Code: B99KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Eurybia furcata
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 22Dec1997
Global Status Last Changed: 02Jan1997
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Nation: United States
National Status: N3

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Arkansas (SH), Illinois (S2), Indiana (S2), Iowa (S1), Michigan (S1), Missouri (S2), Wisconsin (S3)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Occurs in central Michigan and eastern Wisconsin south to western Indiana, northern Illinois, western Iowa, and southeastern Missouri. Historical in Arkansas.

Area of Occupancy: 26-125 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: Area of occupancy calculated with presumably extant occurrences in 2017.

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Approximately 130 extant occurrences with 3 in Iowa, 14 in Illinois, 15 in Indiana, 3 in Michigan, 44 in Missouri, and 52 in Wisconsin.

Population Size Comments: Many large populations are known, but stands are usually clonal, with relatively few genotypes present.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Some (13-40)

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Threats include loss of habitat through urbanization, alteration of habitat (change in water flow through seeps, collapse of bluffs and rock falls; total canopy removal for power line right-of-way (Watson, 1983) impacts of recreation on riverbank populations, the absence of disturbance processes necessary for establishment, and shading by canopy closure which reduces flowering and clonal expansion (Ashmun and Pitelka, 1984).

Short-term Trend: Decline of 30-50%
Short-term Trend Comments: Declining primarily from loss of habitat due to development.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: Occurs in central Michigan and eastern Wisconsin south to western Indiana, northern Illinois, western Iowa, and southeastern Missouri. Historical in Arkansas.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AR, IA, IL, IN, MI, MO, WI

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
IA Madison (19121)*, Monroe (19135)*, Muscatine (19139)
IL Boone (17007)*, Carroll (17015)*, Cook (17031), Grundy (17063)*, Kane (17089), Kankakee (17091)*, Kendall (17093)*, La Salle (17099), Lake (17097), Lee (17103), Mchenry (17111)*, Ogle (17141), Tazewell (17179)*, Will (17197), Winnebago (17201)*
IN Carroll (18015), Cass (18017), Lake (18089), Porter (18127)*, Warren (18171), White (18181)
MI Midland (26111), Monroe (26115)*
MO Douglas (29067), Franklin (29071), Howell (29091), Jefferson (29099), Madison (29123)*, Oregon (29149)*, Ozark (29153), Shannon (29203), St. Francois (29187)*, St. Louis (29189)*, Ste. Genevieve (29186)*, Texas (29215), Washington (29221)*
WI Fond Du Lac (55039), Jefferson (55055), Kenosha (55059), Milwaukee (55079), Ozaukee (55089), Racine (55101), Rock (55105), Sheboygan (55117), Walworth (55127), Washington (55131), Waukesha (55133)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
04 Manitowoc-Sheboygan (04030101)+, Lake Winnebago (04030203)+, Little Calumet-Galien (04040001)+, Pike-Root (04040002)+, Milwaukee (04040003)+, Tittabawassee (04080201)+, Pine (04080202)+, Raisin (04100002)+*
05 Upper Wabash (05120101)+, Middle Wabash-Deer (05120105)+, Tippecanoe (05120106)+, Middle Wabash-Little Vermilion (05120108)+
07 Apple-Plum (07060005)+*, Copperas-Duck (07080101)+, Lower Cedar (07080206)+, Upper Rock (07090001)+, Crawfish (07090002)+, Lower Rock (07090005)+, Kishwaukee (07090006)+*, Lake Red Rock (07100008)+*, Lower Des Moines (07100009)+*, Kankakee (07120001)+, Chicago (07120003)+, Des Plaines (07120004)+, Upper Illinois (07120005)+*, Upper Fox (07120006)+, Lower Fox (07120007)+, Lower Illinois-Senachwine Lake (07130001)+, Vermilion (07130002)+, Lower Illinois-Lake Chautauqua (07130003)+*, Cahokia-Joachim (07140101)+*, Meramec (07140102)+, Bourbeuse (07140103)+, Big (07140104)+*
08 Upper St. Francis (08020202)+*
10 Big Piney (10290202)+
11 North Fork White (11010006)+, Current (11010008)+, Spring (11010010)+*, Eleven Point (11010011)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: The Forked Aster is a perennial, clonal herb with creeping rhizomes and white ray flowers.
General Description: Aster furcatus is a perennial herb with a creeping rhizome and usually no tufts of basal leaves. The stem is stiff, 3-9 dm tall with thick leaves that are rough on the upper surface and finely bristled on the lower surface. The lower cauline leaves have cordate bases and are often deciduous. The upper cauline leaves gradually become sessile. The inflorescence is a flat-topped corymb. The involucre is 7-10 mm high with the outer and median bracts firm and well imbricated. There are commonly 9-18 white petals per flower, each petal is 1 cm or more in length (Gleason, 1952; Fernald, 1950).
Reproduction Comments: Reproduction from seed is rare, vegetative reproduction for population maintenance. Eurybia furcata is an obligate out-crosser and the genetic variability across its range is low possibly resulting from severe bottlenecks early in the history of the species (Les, 1991).
Ecology Comments: Forked aster is a perennial with a creeping rhizome. The plants are very local (Bowles, Menges, pers. comm.). New shoots can arise vegetatively from the tips of rhizomes. Each plant produces a rhizome which elongates and then puts down roots. A new shoot will arise at this site along the rhizome (Lamboy, pers. comm.). Asexual reproduction from the rhizome produces dense colonies of forked aster that can be several feet in diameter (Shinners, 1941). Eurybia furcata is one of the earliest asters to bloom, starting in July in Missouri (Steyermark, 1977). Plants will flower only if they have stored up an adequate carbohydrate reserve during the year. Dense shade inhibits carbohydrate production which in turn will inhibit both flower production and rhizome growth (Lamboy, pers. comm.).

Seed production at one Wisconsin site is good (Barloga, pers. comm.), but two separate populations are usually required for heavy seed production (Stovall and Cole, 1983). In dense, isolated populations that are thought to be clonal, Lamboy (pers. comm.) reports one percent or fewer full (presumed viable) achenes from self pollination. Pollen from other aster species present on an E. furcata stigma reacts chemically and breaks down the barrier inhibiting the germination of the plant's own pollen grains.

Seed production is not thought to be as important as vegetative reproduction for population maintenance (McGrath, pers. comm.). In his research on A. acuminatus, a species with similar habitat requirements, Pitelka (pers. comm.) reports that reproduction from seed is rare in an established patch because seedling establishment is disturbance associated. Aldrich (pers. comm.) mentions that seedlings of E. furcata may establish at river bank sites after the river has scoured the banks and eliminated competition. When conditions are favorable for seed germination, plants will mature two years after germinating and will begin to produce flowers if carbohydrate reserves are adequate.

Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest Edge, Forest/Woodland, Woodland - Hardwood
Habitat Comments: Occurs in woods and woods edges to railroad rights of ways; moist, north-facing rocky ledges and stream bluffs, and open oak woods.

Tans and Read (1975) describe E. furcata as a regional endemic with a diversity of habitats ranging from woods and edges to railroad rights of way. Extant populations are found on moist rocky ledges, north-facing stream bluffs, open oak woods, and north-facing wooded slopes (Barloga, Bowles, Ewert, McGrath, Morgan, pers. comm.).

In Illinois, the substrate can be sandy soils or glacial till on bluffs with Betula papyrifera, Osmunda cinnamomea, and Symplocarpus foetidus growing in association (Bowles, pers. comm.). In Indiana, forked aster is found on the sides and edges of narrow sandstone gorges in thin organic soil. The presence of Parnassia glauca along the gorges indicates that some calcareous material must be present in the soil (McGrath, pers. comm.). Eurybia furcata has been found on a sandy ridge in open oak woods in Iowa (Ewert, pers. comm.).

Large populations have been found in seepy soils at the base of north-facing dolomite bluffs along rivers in Missouri (Morgan, pers. comm.). Trautvetteria caroliniensis occurs with forked aster at many of the Missouri sites (Leoschke, pers. comm.). In Wisconsin, the plant has been found on top of a north-facing clay bluff at the edge of a Quercus rubra - Ostrya virginiana woods and at the base of the bluff along the Menomonee River (Barloga, pers. comm.). Associates in Wisconsin include Aster lateriflorus, Solidago flexicaulis, and Jeffersonia diphylla.

Economic Attributes
Economic Uses: LANDSCAPING, Cultivated ornamental
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: Monitor to track changes in population size, clonal expansion, and new recruitment into populations. Monitoring flower production and corresponding canopy cover may provide some suggestive correlations on the role of light on reproductive vigor. A high priority for research is studies into the factors critical for sexual reproduction and seedling establishment. Characterizing the properties of the water chemistry may provide useful information on habitat requirements at the seepage sites. It is not known if management to manipulate canopy cover or to scarify the substrate is advisable, but on small sites where the natural occurrence of such disturbance is infrequent or absent, such habitat manipulation may be important for long-term population viability. The role of fire is also unclear, but it is presumed that in sites where fires naturally occurred, fire would have a neutral to beneficial influence.
Restoration Potential: Natural recovery potential is uncertain. Indications are good that depleted sites can be restocked. Steyermark (1977) has grown forked aster in a shaded wildflower garden. Jones (Lamboy, pers. comm.) has cultivated the plant in full sun with good results. Lamboy (pers. comm.) notes that A. furcatus transplants well and that one plant can spread dramatically. Seeds have been germinated on wet filter paper with varying results. Breaking dormancy may take two to three weeks or two to three months (Lamboy, pers. comm.).
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Purchase enough buffer to ensure protection of the canopy and water flow in seepy areas. If runoff from areas upslope have the potential to erode the bluff or cause siltation, purchasing more of the watershed may be required for effective runoff control. Obtain protection agreements for sites on privately owned land.
Management Requirements: The reduced light levels brought on by canopy closure may prove to be harmful to the reproductive ability of A. furcatus (Lamboy, pers. comm.). Specifically, relatively high light levels are thought to be important to stimulate flower production and are associated with other factors believed to be necessary for seedling establishment. Clonal expansion through rhizomatous growth is also dependent on light levels for nutrients supplied by carbohydrate production.

The thin soil and wet conditions along rocky bluffs may keep woody vegetation from encroaching, but each site should be evaluated for management needs.

Wilhelm (pers. comm.) suggests fire as a management tool based on his impressions of the habitat in the midwest prior to settlement. If fire is not practical, he also suggests removing the heavy shade trees in the canopy, e.g. Acer spp.

Monitoring Requirements: At present, information is needed on the stability and vulnerability of populations. Population size, the importance of and conditions needed for seedling establishment, and flower and seed production can be determined through biological monitoring. Documentation of vegetative reproduction rates would provide useful information on the amount of genetic variation of a population. Information on the flowering response of forked aster to different amounts of shade may provide insight for canopy manipulation.

The clonal nature of this species makes it more difficult to conduct demographic studies. Monitoring should be conducted by persons experienced with rhizomatous species.

A method to distinguish seedlings from vegetative shoots would enable workers to determine the number of new plants entering the population. A suggestion would be to carefully excavate the soil from the base of young plants and check for any rhizome connections. This simple investigation may provide valuable information for monitoring recruitment. Noting the number of flowers per stem and the rates of clonal expansion each year would alert managers to any serious problems, such as reductions in the amount of light available to the population. To document yearly expansion, mark and map the present boundaries of the population. Be sure to note any differences in canopy cover beyond the existing borders of the population. At riverbank sites, look for seedling establishment on freshly exposed banks.

Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 02Jan1997
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Roth, E. (1987), rev. by S. Gottlieb (1992), L. Morse (1997), S.L.Neid (MRO, 9/1997), L. Morse (1998)
Management Information Edition Date: 14Feb1986
Management Information Edition Author: JOYCE BENDER

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Aldrich, James R., et. al. 1986. The Discovery of Native Rare Vascular Plants in Northern Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science 95:421-428.

  • Ashmun, J.W. and L.F. Pitelka. 1984. Light-induced variation in the growth and dynamics of transplanted ramets of the understory herb, Aster acuminatus. Oecologia 64:255-262.

  • Deam, C. C. 1940. Flora of Indiana. Division of Forestry, Dept. of Conservation, Indianapolis, Indiana. 1236 pp.

  • Deam, C.C. 1940. Flora of Indiana. Indiana Department of Conservation, Division of Forestry, Indianapolis. 1236 pp.

  • Herkert, J.R. 1991c. Endangered and Threatened Species of Illinois: Status and Distribution. Volume 1 - Plants. Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board.

  • Johnson, M.F. and H.H. Iltis. 1963. Preliminary reports on the flora of Wisconsin, No. 48: Compositae I--composite family I. Trans. Wisc. Acad. Sci., Arts, and Letters 52:255-342.

  • Jones, A.G. 1989. ASTER and BRACHYACTIS in Illinois. Ill. Nat. Hist. Surv. Bull. 34:139-194.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Lamboy, W.F., D.L. Nickrent, and A.G. Jones. 1991. Isozyme evidence and phenetic relationships among species in Aster Section Biotia (Asteraceae). Rhodora 93: 205-225.

  • Les, D.H. 1991. Genetic diversity in the monoecious hydrophile Ceratophyllum (Ceratophyllaceae). American Journal of Botany 78:1070-1082.

  • Les, D.H., J.A. Reinartz, and L.A. Leitner. 1992. Distribution and habitats of the forked aster (Aster furcatus: Asteraceae), a threatened Wisconsin plant. Mich. Bot. 31:143-152.

  • McGrath, D. 1986. Aster furcatus monitoring protocol memo; Indiana Field Office.

  • Schwegman, J.E. 1990. Preliminary results of a program to monitor plant species for management purposes. Pp. 113-116, in Ecosystme Management: Rare species and significant habitats. New York State Mus. Bull. 471.

  • Shinners, L.H. 1941. The genus ASTER in Wisconsin. Amer. Midl. Nat. 26:398-420.

  • Steyermark, J. A. 1977. Flora of Missouri. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press.

  • Stovall, I.K. and M.A. Cole. 1983. Aster furcatus at Fall Creek Gorge. Report. 4 pp.

  • Stovall, Iris K. and Michael A. Cole. 1983. Aster furcatus at Fall Creek Gorge. Report. 4 pp.

  • Swink, F., and G. Wilhelm. 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region. Morton Arboretum. Lisle, Illinois.

  • Tans, W.E. and R.H. Read. 1975. Recent Wisconsin records for some interesting vascular plants in the western Great Lakes region. Mich. Bot. 14: 131-143.

  • Voss, E.G. 1996. Michigan Flora, Part III. Dicots (Pyrolaceae-Compositae). Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bloomfield Hills Bulletin 61.

  • Watson, Bill C. 1983. Status report of Aster furcatus Burgess in Iowa for Iowa Conservation Comm.

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