Narrow-leaved White-topped Aster

Sericocarpus linifolius (L.) B.S.P.

Sericocarpus linifolius in flower
Arieh Tal

Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
Asteraceae (Aster Family)
State Protection
Listed as Threatened by New York State: likely to become Endangered in the foreseeable future. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Imperiled in New York - Very vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to rarity or other factors; typically 6 to 20 populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

Formerly known as Aster solidagineus, this is one of the few rare plants where both the name of its genus and species has changed. Both of its species names are descriptive; it has narrow leaves (linifolius) and it does have a goldenrod shape (solidagineus). Its new genus means silky-fruited.

State Ranking Justification

There are seven existing populations but only three of them have more than 100 plants, and they occur in human-disturbed areas that are not managed for this species. More occurrences will likely be found since its habitat is common on Long Island. There are 18 additional historical occurrences and about one third of these are considered extirpated.

Short-term Trends

The short-term trend of the existing populations seem stable as long as favorable disturbance continues.

Long-term Trends

The long-term trend is apparently negative. This species has always been rare in New York, but population numbers were probably higher in the past when larger expanses of grassland occured on Long Island. There may be just as many populations existing today, but with smaller numbers of plants in grassland remnants.

Conservation and Management


Improper maintenance of successional grasslands where it grows can lead to succession and a loss of plants to competition. Too much direct disturbance during the growing season may also reduce numbers of plants.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

This species needs disturbance to reduce competition from woody plants and more aggressive herbaceous plants. However, too much direct disturbance to the plants will reduce or eliminate the population. Its habitat could be disturbed in the non-growing season to open it up for seed germination and colonization, but direct disturbance should be prevented during the growing season.

Research Needs

Research is needed to determine both the soil conditions that favor this plant in remnant grasslands, and whether existing populations can be augmented.



In New York, this species has been found in openings within pine barrens communities, often growing along roadsides, railroads, or in other disturbed areas. Dry to moist sandy, clay, and gravelly soils of open deciduous and pine woods, oak and pine barrens, roadsides, fields (FNA 2006). Dry woods and open ground (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Dry woods, thickets and clearings (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Hempstead Plains grassland (guide)
    A tall grassland community that occurs on rolling outwash plains in west-central Long Island. This community occurs inland, beyond the influence of offshore winds and salt spray.
  • Maritime pitch pine dune woodland* (guide)
    A maritime woodland that occurs on stabilized parabolic dunes. The substrate is wind and wave deposited sand that is usually excessively well-drained and nutrient poor. The community is subject to high winds, sand-blasting, salt spray, and shifting substrate.
  • Mowed roadside/pathway
    A narrow strip of mowed vegetation along the side of a road, or a mowed pathway through taller vegetation (e.g., meadows, old fields, woodlands, forests), or along utility right-of-way corridors (e.g., power lines, telephone lines, gas pipelines). The vegetation in these mowed strips and paths may be dominated by grasses, sedges, and rushes; or it may be dominated by forbs, vines, and low shrubs that can tolerate infrequent mowing.
  • Pitch pine-heath barrens* (guide)
    A shrub-savanna community that occurs on well-drained, sandy or rocky soils. The most abundant tree is pitch pine and the shrublayer is dominated by heath shrubs.
  • Pitch pine-oak forest* (guide)
    A mixed forest that typically occurs on well-drained, sandy soils of glacial outwash plains or moraines; it also occurs on thin, rocky soils of ridgetops. The dominant trees are pitch pine mixed with one or more of the following oaks: scarlet oak, white oak, red oak, or black oak.
  • Pitch pine-scrub oak barrens (guide)
    A shrub-savanna community that occurs on well-drained, sandy soils that have developed on sand dunes, glacial till, and outwash plains.
  • Railroad
    A permanent road having a line of steel rails fixed to wood ties and laid on a gravel roadbed that provides a track for cars or equipment drawn by locomotives or propelled by self-contained motors. There may be sparse vegetation rooted in the gravel substrate. The railroad right of way may be maintained by mowing or herbicide spraying.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Agalinis
  • Aletris farinosa (white colicroot, unicorn-root)
  • Andropogon virginicus
  • Baptisia tinctoria (wild-indigo)
  • Comptonia peregrina (sweet-fern)
  • Eupatorium hyssopifolium (hyssop-leaved thoroughwort)
  • Eurybia spectabilis (showy-aster)
  • Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)
  • Lechea
  • Liatris scariosa novae-angliae
  • Linum intercursum (sandplain wild flax, Bicknell's yellow flax)
  • Pinus rigida (pitch pine)
  • Polygala nuttallii (Nuttall's milkwort)
  • Prunus
  • Pteridium aquilinum
  • Rubus
  • Schizachyrium scoparium
  • Sericocarpus asteroides (toothed white-topped-aster)
  • Solidago juncea (early goldenrod)
  • Sorghastrum nutans (Indian grass)


New York State Distribution

This plant only grows on Long Island.

Global Distribution

It grows in the eastern United States from Indiana south to Louisiana and east to Georgia, New York, and Southern New England.

Identification Comments

General Description

Flax-leaf Whitetop is a perennial, stout aster species growing up to 75 cm tall. Its leaves are linear, glabrous, and entire, up to 1 cm wide and 8 cm long. The basal and lower leaves wither by flowering time. The capitulescence is flat-topped, with 2 to 4 heads per branch. The phyllaries (the bracts of the involucre beneath each head) are white with a distinct green patch, and spreading. The flowers have 2 to 6 white ray flowers up to 1 cm long, and 5 to 15 white disc flowers up to 4 mm long.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Flowers or fruits are needed to positively identify Flax-leaf Whitetop.

Similar Species

The only other species of Sericocarpus in New York is S. asteroides, which has (at least some) toothed stem leaves, differing from the entire leaves of S. linifolius. The combination of linear and entire stem leaves, flat-topped capitulescence, and recurved, glabrous, green-tipped phyllaries should also distinguish this species from those of other aster genera.

Best Time to See

The best time to identify this plant is in July through September.

  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Narrow-leaved White-topped Aster flowering and fruiting in New York.

Narrow-leaved White-topped Aster Images


Narrow-leaved White-topped Aster
Sericocarpus linifolius (L.) B.S.P.

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
        • Order Asterales
          • Family Asteraceae (Aster Family)

Additional Common Names

  • Flax-leaf Whitetop


  • Aster solidagineus Michx.

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2006. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 20. Magnoliophyta: Asteridae, Part 7: Asteraceae, part 2. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxii + 666 pp.

Other References

Clemants, Steven and Carol Gracie. 2006. Wildflowers in the Field and Forest. A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States. Oxford University Press, New York, NY. 445 pp.

Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Newcomb, Lawrence. 1977. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide: An Ingenious New Key System for Quick, Positive Field Identification of the Wildflowers, Flowering Shrubs, and Vines of Northeastern and North-Central North America. Little, Brown and Company. Boston.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, New York


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Richard M. Ring

Information for this guide was last updated on: June 18, 2013

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Sericocarpus linifolius. Available from: Accessed February 26, 2024.