Randi V.W. Eckel, PhD

Oct. 15, 2015

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So Many Fall Asters!!

Blue Wood Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium)

I was up in New York State this past weekend marveling at all of the different Asters that were in bloom in the fields and forests - and all of the insects that were enjoying them so thoroughly. Pollinators were everywhere! Our Blue Wood Aster is fairly dripping with bees (both native and honey) these days. With the large number of Asters we grow in our gardens, we have had Asters flowering since early August and expect to have them flowering at least until the end of October. By having many species of Aster, we (and the pollinators) are able to enjoy these beautiful flowers for months.

White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata)

How many native Asters can you name?

There are 40 different native Asters found in New Jersey, New York & Pennsylvania alone! They can be found in nearly every habitat - from the coast to the mountain tops, swamps to dry meadows, sun to full shade. If you are walking through dry woods you may encounter Blue Wood Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolius) covered with pale blue flowers, starry White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata) with it's heart-shaped creeping foliage, or the pretty & aptly named Large-leaved Aster (Eurybia macrophylla).

Out in the sun, you may see deep purple New England Aster (S. novae-angliae) growing 2 to 6' tall - a native aster which a lot of folks seem to recognize. Other 'sunny' asters that are less well recognized include Calico Aster (S.lateriflorus) with it's clouds of tiny bi-colored flowers, light purple New York Aster (S. novi-belgii), Smooth Blue Aster (S. laevis) with its blue flowers and blue/green leaves, & the light purple flowers of Purple-stemmed Aster (S. puniceum) growing in moist areas. You can even find Asters growing on rocky balds - such as the beautiful pale blue Stiff Aster (Ionactis linariifolius). Keep an eye on our Facebook page - we'll be posting some more Aster picture there in the next couple of weeks.

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

Purple-stemmed Aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum)

A word about the confusing scientific names of Asters...

So why aren't all Asters in the genus Aster? The scientific names of Asters became a bit more confusing a few years ago when research revealed that we only have 1 true member of the genus Aster in North America - the Alpine Aster (Aster alpinus). All of the rest of the North American 'Asters' were moved to other (mostly more difficult to pronounce!) genera such as Symphyotrichum, Eurybia, Oclemena, Ampelaster, Doellingeria, and Ionactis. These name changes simply reflect our better understanding of how the different species are related to one another.

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