Our native asters are all too often overlooked

Our native asters are all too often overlooked. Far more varied than the casual glance would suggest, there is pretty much an aster to fit almost any situation a gardener may have. Though many of our native species have been moved out of the genus aster and into a handful of others, they still maintain the aster look nonetheless. Either way, today we will focus on the upland prairie asters that we offer. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae – http://bit.ly/1q40WTb) is probably the most commonly encountered aster in the eastern US. It thrives in a variety of soil types and enjoys a lot of sun. Mature plants can reach upwards of 5 feet in height and put out one of the most impressive flower displays of any late-blooming plant. The color of the flowers can range from pink to deep purple and everything in between. Smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laevis – http://bit.ly/ZdVZfj) differs from New England aster in that is is smooth to the touch and much smaller. The flowers are also regularly light lavender. Its twin, the sky blue aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiensis- http://bit.ly/1pFdc6s) differs in that it is rough to the touch. Its leaves also become smaller as they go up the stem. Sky blue aster is one of the latest blooming asters and is also the most tolerant of the three when it comes to dry soils. We also offer other upland prairie asters such as the heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides – http://bit.ly/1rSHTNj) and the aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium – http://bit.ly/1pFdGJN). All asters attract a menagerie of wildlife when in bloom. Everything from butterflies to bees and even beetles utilize the blooms of these species. Being late bloomers, the asters provide a bounty to insects looking to stock up on energy for the long winter ahead. A myriad of butterfly and moth larvae feed on the leaves of these species. What is most tantalizing about these asters is that, though deer browse on them, they are quite hardy and bounce back readily. Some even throw up more flowers after being munched upon. Each species will readily self-seed under the right conditions. This, however, is often kept in check as the seeds of these asters are quite nutritious and are thus readily gobbled up by hungry birds.

 

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