New England aster
Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade
Soil moisture: Medium to wet
Flowering period: August to September
Host plant for 12 caterpillar species
One of the meadow’s great color combinations can be achieved with this singular wildflower, whose golden-yellow discs and bold purple rays throw subtlety to the autumn winds. Monarchs and other butterflies are drawn to the plant’s numerous flashy flowerheads, each of which offers an easy landing zone and multiple opportunities to probe for nectar. With its readily accessible floral rewards, New England Aster attracts many other pollinators as well, including flies, bees, beetles, and moths. Similar to goldenrods, plants within the aster genus Symphyotrichum are highly utilized by specialist bees who require the pollen from a narrow range of plant species for their larval nutrition. Considering that specialist bees account for a large proportion of all bee species, planting their pollen hosts – like New England aster – is vital to maintaining bee diversity.
A NE Ohio native that can be found in meadows and forest edges as well as along roadsides, New England aster grows best in full sun and soils ranging from moderately wet to moderately dry. The plant will attain a mature height of 3-6’ and produce its brilliant flowerheads for up to two months in the late summer and fall. To build on New England aster’s colorful display, plant with wildflowers such as wrinkleleaf goldenrod, grass-leaved goldenrod, late boneset, and common boneset.
Photo by Ashley Keesling.