Tag Archives: asters

Spreading Aster Symphyotrichum patens

When blue daisies like the spreading aster begin to bloom, fall is close behind. This aster is common along the roads now along with Drummond’s Aster, Azure Aster and New England Aster.


Symphyotrichum patens G.L. Nesom

August to October                                       N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Astereae

spreading aster flower

Flower: Flower stalks grow out of leaf nodes. They can branch and tend to be long and slender. Each one has a single flower head at the end. The cup holding the flower has numerous, small, pointed, hairy, green bracts with purple tips. These lie smoothly but make a jagged top of the cup. Sticking out of the cup are 15 to 20 rays lying flat and making a flower head almost two inches across. The rays are blue to purplish blue and often lighter on the first half and deeply colored on the outer half. The central disk flowers are yellow.

spreading aster side flower

Leaf: Only stem leaves are present when the plant blooms. These alternate leaves are sessile and have two projections that clasp the stem and a tapered, slightly rounded tip. The edges have no teeth or lobes. Both top and bottom are covered with short hairs which go around the leaf edges too.

spreading aster leaf

Stem: The branched stems can reach four feet. They attempt to grow upward, but usually curve down toward the ground. The green stems are hairy.

spreading aster under leaf

Root: The perennial root is both rhizomes and thickened fibrous roots.

spreading aster stem

Fruit: The seeds are purplish brown footballs.

spreading aster seeds

Habitat: This plant likes full to partial sun growing in pastures, open woods, glades, prairies and along roads.


Spreading Aster

Purple Daisy

spreading aster plant

There are several blue to purplish blue daisies blooming in late summer into fall. Spreading Aster can be identified by the leaves clasping the stems and the hairiness of the stems.

These blue asters are among the first blue aster to bloom along the roads. The two to three foot long stems arch over the ground with several long flower stalks sticking out. the flowers open one or two then several at a time.

Smaller butterflies such as buckeyes, red admirals and skippers visit the flowers.

Once the flowers are pollinated, the rays wither. The seeds develop and brown with the threads sticking out of the enclosing cup. There can be buds to blooms to seeds on the same plant at the same time.

Although small, the flowers are delicately pretty. The plants are fairly drought tolerant. Seeds are available from a variety of sources.

Many Asters Are Blooming

All spring and summer I have been working on my insane botany project. I’ve been doing the fun part: taking pictures of the many wildflowers and plants. Once I have the pictures I try to identify the flowers. The many asters now in bloom are defeating me.

Asters are among my very favorite flowers. They are the highlight of fall.

white heath asters are one of many asters

White Heath Aster loves open areas such as pastures. It’s two to three foot tall plants are covered with the half inch across ‘flowers.’

First to appear are the white heath asters and Drummond’s asters. When I first saw these, I thought they were the same as they are much the same size and have whole bouquets of flowers surrounding their stalks.

Drummond's Aster is one of many asters

Along the edges of the woods and up into them I found this small aster. The plants look similar to white heath aster until you look closer. The flowers are blue. The leaves are different. The buds are different. This is Drummond’s Aster.

Upon closer look differences were obvious. White heath asters are just that: white. Drummond’s aster are bluish lavender. Their leaves are different. Where they grow is different.

So this year I have been looking closely at the many asters blooming. A case in point are the blue asters along the road.

I stopped and took pictures of a blue aster. It was the only one around at the time. Some of the pictures needed redoing so I stopped again at what I thought was the same place.

Aster anomalus is one of many asters

I stopped for pictures of the spreading aster and found this one. The cup under the flower has lots of curly points whereas spreading aster is smooth. It’s rays are shorter and thicker. It is called Aster anomalus with no common name listed.

The blue asters blooming there were not the one I had seen earlier. In the space of ten feet along the road I found three different blue asters!

In identifying asters there are several important things to look at. One is the flower or collection on tube flowers and ray flowers referred to as the flower. The number and color of the tube flowers matters as does the number, color and shape of the rays.

Spreading Aster is one of many asters

Spreading Aster is one of the blue to lavender asters. It’s leaves are distinctive making it easier to identify than many others. The rays are long and narrow but numerous.

Behind the flower is a base. Some of these are smooth. Others have curly cues hanging off of them.

The shape of the leaves, whether or not the leaves have petioles, if they are hairy or not all need noting. The same is done with the stems.

Unknown aster is one of many asters

This is a new aster to me. It has the long narrow rays like spreading aster but fewer of them. The leaves are different. It resides in my Unknown folder for now.

Some asters have big leaves at the base of their stems. Most do not.

Armed with pictures of all of these points I went home to identify the many asters I had found. First I opened the guide books.

New England asters are easy to identify. Their rich purple with gold centers is unlike any other aster.

New England Aster is one of many asters

New England Asters line the roads with three to five foot plants covered with purple blooms with gold centers. The color is richest on plants in the sun.

The blue asters listed in the guidebook didn’t help much. Out came the Flora of Missouri, Volume 2.

This extensive volume lists 24 different asters not counting subspecies. Some don’t grow anywhere around my county. Seventeen do with four possibles.

I did manage to identify one of the many asters I found with this book. I will work on the others again another day. Wildflowers will fill my winter months too from the number of flowers in my Unknown folder.