Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade
Soil moisture: Medium
Flowering period: July to October
Host plant for 12 caterpillar species
In early fall, panicled aster’s bushy upper stems produce a galaxy of white-rayed flowerheads whose yellow disks gradually turn reddish in a dynamic floral display. The color change is one of the hallmarks of the plants informally called “aster,” which can all be recognized by a late-season bloom of numerous, smallish flowerheads. Research on the closely related calico aster has shown that the reddish-disked flowerheads possess less pollen and a lower proportion of viable pollen than the yellow-disked flowerheads, and that pollinators avoid foraging on the former. It thus seems that by inducing the color change, the plant increases its reproductive efficiency while keeping a large number of flowerheads in bloom, which attracts a maximum number of pollinators. Foraging pollinators notice the many-flowered display from a distance, approach the plant, and once near, focus their attention on the yellow-disked flowerheads.
A competitive plant, panicled aster can be found in a variety of environments throughout northeastern Ohio, ranging from roadsides and urban lots to high quality wet meadows and forest openings. Its airborne seeds readily colonize bare soil and disturbed ground, and the plant soon forms a colony through spreading via underground stems. Common associates to panicled aster include goldenrods, bonesets, milkweeds, and white snakeroot. With its high wildlife value, pretty fall flowers, and tendency to spread, panicled aster is a good, low-maintenance choice for filling in an area and preventing the encroachment of unwanted plants. Panicled aster will thrive under full to partial sunlight and soil moisture ranging from moderately wet to average.
Photo by Gertjan van Noord.