Frost Aster

Common Name: Frost Aster.

Scientific Name: Symphyotrichum Pilosum.

What to look for?  Clusters of tiny white flowers sitting atop a tall stem. The Frost Aster is a perennial plant sending up one or more leafy stems that are erect, ascending, or arching-spreading, giving it a shrubby appearance. The tall leafy stems are clad with elliptic-shaped, alternate leaves that diminish in size as they ascend the stems. The upper stems terminate in panicles of flowerheads. Each panicle has a central rachis, several spreading to ascending lateral branches, and shorter secondary branches with flowerheads. Each individual flowerhead features several dozen white ray florets that surround a flattened head of yellow disk florets. Flowers are followed by a fruit (dry seed with a tuft of white hairs). With the help of the white hairs, seeds are distributed to new locations by wind.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Frost Aster may be seen growing sporadically around the clearings next to and the edges of the forest preserve during Fall.

How big are they? The Frost Aster generally grows to approximately three (3) feet tall. The elliptic leaves are up to four (4) inches long and three-quarter (0.75) of an inch across. The branching panicle of flowerheads are about two (2) feet long and about one (1) foot across. Each flowerhead is about one-half (0.5) inch across.

Where do they grow and thrive? The native Frost Aster is primarily found in open woodland areas and clearings in the central and eastern U. S. and Canada.

When do they bloom? The Frost Aster blooms for up to two (2) months during autumn until heavy frost.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The flowerheads of the Frost Aster attract many kinds of insects, including honeybees, bumblebees, and a variety of other bees, wasps, butterflies, skippers, moths, and various beetles, where they feed on, or collect, nectar and pollen. Among vertebrate animals, the ecological value of asters is more limited. The Tree Sparrow eats their seeds during the winter. Among mammals, the Cottontail Rabbit and White-tailed Deer browse on the foliage.

Interesting Facts About Frost Aster:

  • This plant is known as frost aster because its hairy stems appear to be covered with thick frost.

  • Genus name Symphyotrichum comes from the Greek symph meaning coming together and trich meaning hair in possible reference to the flower anthers.

  • Specific epithet Pilosum means covered with long soft hairs.

  • The Frost Aster is perhaps the most common aster in Illinois.

For more information on the Frost Aster and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, Missouri Botanical Garden, and Ontario Wildflowers.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!