While Spring is noted for its wildflowers, Autumn also offers an impressive burst of color as some plants make a last push to propagate before the killing frosts. Asters are particularly easy to find blooming in late summer and fall, especially the purplish ones
Asters belong to the largest group of flowering plants, the Composite (Compositae) family, also called the Daisy family. They are noted for possibly being the last family of flowers to develop on the earth. A typical composite flower head appears to be a dark central disk surrounded by a circle of many petals that encircle the disk like windmill blades. The central disk is in fact a cluster of many small flowers (often over a hundred) grouped together, hence the name composite. The surrounding petals are called rays, each of which is a modified flower.
There are about 250 species of asters world wide, of which more than half are found in the United States. They are very abundant in our area, and can be found blooming from early summer to November. Most fall blooming asters have small flowers that tend to cluster at the top of the plant. My grandparents referred to these late blooming asters as “frost weeds”. One outstanding flower that I have seen locally is the New England Aster, a very showy purple flower with an orange center disk. It is being cultivated for garden use.
Asters are most commonly found in old fields and along roadsides, but can also be found in wooded areas. While abundant, asters have relatively little importance to wildlife. If you would like to grow some of the more showy asters in your landscape, there are several companies that sell seed. One is American Meadows, phone: 877-309-7333, web site: www.americanmeadows.com. There is also The Wildflower Farm, phone 866-476-9453, web site: www.wildflowerfarm.com.