Purple Aster

2016 March 5

These little purple daisy-like flowers bloom from late summer to right through the first hard freezes in October and November (the photos are from August 19, 2015).


There are all stages of blossoms shown here. The yellow-centered ones look like new blooms, the purple-centered ones look older, and the dried up ones are the ones going to seed.

The whole plant is fairly upright, and maybe 1-2 feet tall, with widely-spaced pointed leaves running up the stem.


And here’s a close-up of one of the purple-centered blossoms. They have a nice color, but tend to have a kind of ragged petal spacing and look a bit irregular.


I think these are probably Late Purple Aster, Symphyotrichum patens. Of course, everything that I read emphasizes the difficulty of identifying asters to species, but some sites suggest that our biodiversity up here in the UP is restricted enough[1] that we probably only have the one species. Plants in the Symphyotricum genus were formerly in the genus Aster, but in the 1990s botanists decided that only the Eurasian species would be considered to be part of the Aster genus, with the related plants in the rest of the world being spun off into their own groupings.

Since these bloom in the late fall, they are one of the flowers that the bees go to while they are topping off their honey and pollen supplies to get through the winter.

[1] Glaciers will do that for you. Since plants can’t walk, it takes them some time to recolonize a site after the glaciers retreat. And since our glaciers only melted off up here around 10,000 years ago (almost within recorded history!), relatively few plants have made it back into the area so far. We certainly have a lot less plant diversity than in places that were never glaciated, like Georgia or Florida.

3 Responses
  1. March 8, 2016

    Spindly! Doesn’t it look like the plant found a flower design that worked well enough to attract pollinating insects and then ditched the whole self-improvement thing and went to get a beer and watch the game?

  2. March 9, 2016

    All kidding aside, that is actually probably very close to what did happen (aside from the getting a beer part). These bloom so late in the season that there are hardly any other blossoms available. So the nectar-feeding insects that are still around (mostly killing time until they are ready to hibernate), will pollinate whatever they can get. And since there aren’t a lot of choices, the blossoms can still be perfectly serviceable while being kind of slap-dash and scraggly.

    And as for why other plants don’t blooms so late, I think it is a case of the time it takes for seeds to ripen. Other plants have to ripen their seeds and get them dispersed and into the protection of the leaf litter and soil before the first frost. These late asters, on the other hand, evidently have the ability to either ripen the seeds unusually quickly, or to frost-harden them enough that they can survive freezes even while they are still developing on the plant.

  3. March 11, 2016

    Hey, were you there while it was evolving? How do you know it didn’t go get a beer? Of course, since the only thing in the fridge at the time were those dreadful Mexican lagers, it never did it again which is why your kitchen isn’t filled with Asters trying to mooch a brew today. Evolution at work again!


    Asters. The lazy slobs of the plant world.


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