Thursday, September 22, 2016

More About Asters

There is always more about Asters, isn't there? Living with Asters is a bit like living with kids - every time you think you have something figured out you discover something else that throws all your ideas out on their ears. Asters are always that one step ahead of us...

I took a short walk down to the edge of my Marsh and inspected some of the Asters in bloom now.

One (former) Aster, now to be known as Oclemena acuminata, is Whorled Aster. It's a handy one for the woods garden as it does very well in shaded and dry conditions. It spreads mildly, unlike some members of this clan, but is easily pulled if it gets out of bounds. It's short, about 16" high, always looks healthy, and blooms late.

The flowers are a sort of 'shabby chic' for the garden.

This one, with a much prettier flower, is Purple-stemmed Aster, or Swamp Aster, Symphyotrichum puniceum. It likes life damper, and sunnier, than what suits Whorled Aster. You see it quite often at the edges of marshes or streams, rising above all the shorter plants.

The flowers are comparatively large and usually some shade of blue. I have only once seen a white one, and have so far managed to keep my mitts off, but I'll visit it once the seeds ripen. Easy to grow, but it does need moisture.

Another one that seems to like a bit of water at its feet is Flat-topped White Aster, Doellingeria umbellata. This flower cluster isn't really typical, usually they are more flat-topped, but I liked its graceful posture. This Aster can get quite tall; I have it over 6' in the back of my property although the ones here are only about 3'. The books say 'single stalks' but it does form colonies, somewhat like Goldenrods do. A big, robust plant for a wet spot, much loved by bees, wasps and other wingy things.

When I went to photograph the Flat-topped Aster above, I also found a number of plants of what I think must be Symphyotrichum ciliolatum, Fringed Blue Aster. Hard to be sure, but the leaves and flowers are as described in the books. It's the habitat that doesn't match. J. Semple in Cultivated and Native Asters of Ontario calls it a 'calciphile' and describes the typical habitat as 'open woods'. Here it grows along the edge of the marsh (probably acidic) and quite near the water.

Here's one which I can't identify. Tall, about 4', well-leaved all the way down, sturdy and healthy looking, it has spread to be a large patch here. It's in full sun, fairly damp, poor soil. The stems all have some degree of 'zig' to them, and most have the dark spots you see here. The flowers vary from white to very pale pink.

Any guesses?

And if you like guessing, how about this one? I found a number of these beside the Marsh. They tended to be about 2 to 2 1/2 feet tall, single-stemmed, with rough but healthy leaves. The flowers were all white, with the centres (the disc flowers) starting out yellow, becoming purple, and then fading to brown. Quite large for an aster. The leaves are also fairly wide for an aster and clasp the stem at their bases.

Could this be Eurybia radula, Rough-leaved Aster? That's not supposed to occur here, only being known from further North.The leaves fit the description, the flowers sort-of fit, but the location is off.

Wonder what it is...

Next post  I'll take a look at some of the dry-land Asters I have here, and if you think you're confused now, just wait!


  1. I always look forward to the asters in the fall. I have probably six different varieties but I don't know their scientific names. All the little bees and wasps love them.

  2. They sure do! And never mind the names, I'll bet the asters themselves don't know their names!