|New England aster||
by Pat Harper
Aster: from the Greek aster, "a star," describing the radiate heads of
New England aster
|The New England
aster is one of the most easily identifiable of the many species of this
fall blooming genus. The large number of pink, lavender to purple ray
flowers, often forty or more, are characteristic. One source indicated that
there could be as many as one hundred flowers on one plant. The numerous
flowers are about one inch in diameter.
In the center of the colorful ray flower head are found the distinctive discs flowers in yellow to yellow-orange.
Other important features of this aster are the glandular hairy stems and leaves.
The lance-shaped leaves are entire, have no stalks, and are lobed clasping.
These asters bloom from the end of July through October and prefer wet to wet-mesic prairies. They also can be found in other inland fresh meadows, as well as upland sites such as old fields and moist, open woods.
The crushed root, made into a poultice, has been used to treat muscle
pain, fevers, and diarrhea. Tea from the root is sipped to aid digestion and
from the leaves to relieve fever. A decoction of the plant treats weak skin.
Smudging the plant is said to revive the unconscious.
To attract game, the crushed and dried root was smoked in a pipe. Yellow, orange, and green dyes can be extracted from all parts of the plant.
Other facts: Butterflies, bees, and moths find this fall bloomer attractive aiding in the pollination. This tall (to 6ft) dense, showy plant heralds the coming of fall and is a stark contrast to the yellows, blues, and whites of the goldenrod and other fall blooming asters.
Propagation: The seeds are dispersed by the “fluff and fly” method, as they mature they grow their own parasols to be carried off with the wind to a new location far from the parent plant. Seed collection is easy, grasp the fluff with your fingers and remove it from the plant. The seeds are located at the based of the fluff held in a tight cluster. They are quite small, light to medium brown, the width of a fine needle and about 1/8 inch long. When sown, both seeds and chaff should be patted together onto the soil surface.