Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wildflower Wednesday

It's Wildflower Wednesday care of Gail @ Clay and Limestone.

I've known for weeks what I would be talking about this Wednesday.  You simply can't look anywhere right now without seeing Asters.  Unfortunately that means fall is upon us.
I've spotted three varieties in our yard alone.
I was going to tell you their names but it seems Asters are one of the most difficult species to identify.  At first I thought these tiny white blooms with the fluffy pink centers might be Drummond's Aster.  But I discovered this variety lives much further south so that wasn't right.  I also considered Aster lateriflorus or Calico Aster.  But I read the distinctive feature of that plant is it's long horizontal branches and sparse flowers.  Some of the plants appear to have horizontal branches but not all of them so I'm not quite convinced.  So for now you'll have to bear with me and call them those tiny white Asters with the fluffy pink centres. 
There is another tall white variety with large blooms on it which I failed to get a photo of (so you'll just have to believe me).  And we also have purple Asters.  Some appear to be quite low growing and others are as tall as I am. 

Although I wasn't able to identify any single variety I did learn a little about Asters in my attempts at identification.  The first thing I found out is that Asters have composite flowers.  This means that the flower we see is actually composed of two sets of flowers.  The outside 'petals' form a flower called a Ray and the centre forms a flower called a Disc.

I also discovered that Discs are tricky.  The Disc of an Aster often changes colour as the flower ages.  If you look at the photo below you will notice the flowers at the top of the photo have a yellow disc and the flowers below are pink.
Changing colours can make identification difficult so many other factors need to be taken into account.  You'll need to look at other features such as leaf shape, plant height, habitat, and size of flowers to help with your identification.  These other features are always helpful when identifying a new plant but they are extremely important when it comes to Asters because these flowers tend to resemble each other very closely.
There's also the little issue of the number of Asters in the world.  This genus previously contained approximately 600 species.  That genus has now been broken up in almost a dozen new categories but the fact is if you're not schooled in botany these flowers are going to all look a lot alike. 

I don't think I'm going to become an expert in the identification of Asters anytime soon but I'm happy enough to call them purple, white, tall and short.  And to me the most wonderful attribute of these Asters  is that I didn't plant them.  They have simply shown up of their own free will for all to enjoy.  Making sure I have their botanical name right isn't going to change my appreciation for them.


  1. I love them~Really that make me smile and they never fail to attract the pollinators! Not blooming yet, but around here they bloom until a real killing frost knocks them out! I am so glad you joined WW and shared these lovely native aster. gail

  2. Hi Marguerite,
    Asters are a great favorite of mine. Your pictures really captured their delicate appearance. I agree about the name. Who cares! I have some in my garden, but have no idea what their proper name is. The deep purple ones are my most favorite.

  3. Hi Marguerite; I have asters here, too, but they haven't started to explode like yours have. I know the variety of a couple in my garden: Woods Blue, Professor Kippenburg (which is more blue than the Woods Blue), Monch (also blue). There's a pink one, too, whose name escapes me right now. They all started out sort of low, but seem to be getting taller with subsequent seasons. Hmmmm.

  4. I love asters since they bloom in the Fall and are so nice and cheery! Nice post. :-)
    David/ Tropical Texana/ Houston

  5. Gail, Thanks for having me. The Asters will come your way soon enough. Be glad it's still warm where you are and enjoy it while you can.

    Jennifer, one of these days I'll probably plant some asters and when I do I'll be looking for that deep purple variety. All the Asters at my last home got eaten by the deer so I'm excited to see them here.

    Auntie K - Perhaps the low variety I'm seeing is just in the beginning stages and will emerge several feet taller in years to come? Quite possible, since these are located in my former lawn where they would have previously been mown down.

    David - Thanks David! Although it's no longer summer here their cheery faces help ease the transition.

  6. I love asters but the season is not upon us yet. How fortunate you have a great variety right in your magical yard. My favorite of the ones you photographed, are the tiny white ones with the fluffy pink centers.

    Why am I suddenly craving candy?

  7. I love asters at this time of year too. You seem to have a good display of them in flower just now - mine are not out yet.

  8. Cheri - now you have me thinking about those hard strawberry cream candies, except I can't remember the name of them and it's going to drive me crazy...

    Leavesnbloom - There's definitely a lot of them and they're literally covered in flowers. I hadn't expected such a showing so it's a lovely surprise.

  9. Your asters are beautiful. I'm headed up to Maine for the weekend, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the New England asters in bloom. I'm particularly fond of a tall, deep purple variety that goes by the common name of 'Ironweed.' -Jean

  10. I like your attitude, Marguerite--I can't identify the different varieties either, but we can all enjoy these beauties. The "tiny white asters with the fluffy pink centres" are especially beautiful!

  11. I enjoyed seeing your asters. Some of them, like that pink one, I don't think I've seen before. I am forever losing tags, and without them, I can't remember what is what. I'm with you on enjoying the blooms, whether I know their names or not.

  12. Jean - I'm sure you'll enjoy the drive home as there's sure to be plenty of flowers along the sides of the road for you to enjoy. Ironweed certainly looks very striking. The purple blooms I have are more pastel coloured, although the colour carries simply due to the large number of plants and blooms.

    Rose and Sue - Sometimes I think I get too caught up in the names and forget that it's simply a joy to walk outside and see a pretty flower. Moving to a new garden zone has really helped me remember the fun of discovering new flowers.