Contributor: John F. Foster
Asters white Asters blue – their flowers are everywhere throughout the autumn. Distinguishing Aster species is more difficult than their yellow-flowered cousins – the Goldenrods. Asters are placed in the Asteraceae family formerly Compositae. The name Daisy family is used for this group which forms the largest wildflower family in Canada. Recently the genus name of Asters in the group Aster spp. was changed to Symphyotrichum. Asters are insect pollinated and do not cause allergies. In Durham, Asters can be generally divided into white and pink to blue flowers. The large flowers of Asters are arranged at the tops/ends of stems, branches or small stalks. All Asters have a yellow disk which turns red when ripened. Around the disk are rays of the two main colour types. Leaves of Asters are always alternate and not compound or divided. The type of stem and/or leaf can be a key to the species.
Toronto Botanical Garden
The most common of the white Asters are Heath, Panicled, Calico, Small White and Flat-topped White. The most common of the pink to blue Asters are Heart-leaved, Smooth, Large-leaved, Red-stemmed and New England . The habitats occupied by Asters are various. Calico Aster can be found in both thickets and meadows. Inhabiting dry fields are Small White Aster and Heath Aster. In sloped wet meadows grows Panicled Asters. Marshes are home to Flat-topped White Aster. Maple-Beech-Ash Forests are home to Heart-leaved and Large-leaved Asters. Smooth Aster can be found in transition zones between forest and meadow. New England is found in thickets and meadows. Red-stemmed Aster grows in wet areas.
In Durham Asters can be easily found in these well known wild areas:
Pickering - Amos Ponds Woods; Frenchman’s Bay; Petticoat Ck. C.A.
Ajax - Clement’s Woods; Duffin’s Creek Valley; Warbler Woods.
Whitby - Cullen Central Pk.; Heber Down C.A.; Intrepid Pk; Thickson’s Woods. Oshawa - Oshawa Ck. Trail; Purple Woods C.A.; Second Marsh.
Clarington - Darlington Prov. Pk.; Enniskillen C.A.; Orono Forest Reserve.
Aster flowers are large and showy and some of them have been bred for gardening. New England Aster is the most cultivated of the group. It and its southern cousin New York Aster are called Michaelmas Daisies. They exist in many colour shades which make them popular in Autumn gardens. Asters have had other uses in the past. Large-leaved Aster young leaves were once used as a kind of spinach or to get rid of headaches. Natives once used New England Aster root as a tea to treat diarrhea and fever or to be smoked in a pipe to attract game. Now we prefer to grow Asters or walk about and admire their beauty. For as you read this there are a blooming Asters white Asters blue in the Autumn.