New England Aster

Common Name: New England Aster.

Scientific Name: Symphyotrichum Novae-angliae.

What to look for?  Showy display of large lavender flowers during the summer – and into the fall! The New England Aster is much like the asters that you may grow in your gardens. This tall wildflower consists of a reddish-brown central stem and some branches. The green leaves are oblong and change in size from large near the base and smaller as they ascend the stem. Clusters of flowers occur at the ends of the upper stems. Each flower has a center comprised of numerous golden yellow disk florets, which are surrounded by dozens of lavender ray florets or petals. These petals are long and slender. There may be a dozen or more of such flowers on a single plant. The root system often produces short thick rhizomes, enabling this plant to spread vegetatively. The achenes or fruits are smooth and dry seeds with tufts of hair that allow the seed to be dispersed by the wind.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Several groups of New England Asters were sighted around the western pond. For our southsiders, New England Asters were found at the restored prairie at Stonegate Park just west of your homes.

How big are they? New England Aster may grow from three to nearly four feet tall. The oblong leaves are approximately four (4) inches long and one (1) inch across at the stem base and smaller as they ascend. Each flower is about one (1) to two (2) inches across.

Where do they grow and thrive? The native New England Aster occurs throughout Illinois and across most of the U.S. and into Canada. With a preference for sunlight, these are primarily open lands plants. The native New England Aster thrives in grasslands, prairies, thickets, savannas, moist meadows in woodlands, and open areas along rivers and lakes.

When do they bloom? The blooming period of the New England Aster usually starts in late summer and continues to show off these lavender flowers into fall.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The flowers of the New England Aster attract bumblebees and honeybees, bee flies, butterflies, and skippers. Cross-pollination by these insects is essential, otherwise the seeds will be infertile. New England Aster is an important late-season food source for pollinators. Deer and rabbits occasionally browse on the foliage.

Interesting Facts About New England Aster:

  • In legend, the aster came into being from the tears of the Greek goddess Asterea. One day, Asterea looked at the earth and could not find any stars. As she wept, the Aster rose out of the soil where her tears fell.

  • It is easy to distinguish this aster from other asters, because its compound flowers are larger in size with more numerous ray florets.

  • The leaves, flowers, and roots of New England Aster have long been used in herbal medicine and purification rituals.

  • Sometimes referred to as the ‘Purple Dome’ because of the abundance of bright purple or lavender blossoms from late summer until frost.

For more information on the New England 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, Morton Arboretum, University of Texas Wildflower Center, and Missouri Botanical Gardens.

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!