Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade
Soil moisture: Medium
Flowering period: August to October
Host plant for 12 caterpillar species
Among the low herbs of the forest edge, a plant with delicate flowerheads grows, and with the subtle blue of its petal-like rays, hints of sweetness to be found in the dappled shade. Attesting to the truth of crooked-stemmed aster’s message are the many small, winged creatures who buzz and flutter about its flowerheads while collecting nectar and pollen. These pollinating visitors range in size from flies to butterflies, and include a number of specialist bees which depend on the pollen from this and other members of the Symphyotrichum and Solidago genera. Most of these specialist bees are autumnal mining bees who nest underground and are most active in late summer and autumn. Among the numerous other bee visitors to crooked-stemmed aster are the stem-nesting small carpenter bees. These bees seek out pithy plant stems and excavate the pith in order to construct a series of nest cells within the stem. In a garden setting, one can help support the full life cycle of small carpenter bees by planting pithy stemmed species like wild bergamot in addition to forage plants like crooked-stemmed aster.
A NE Ohio native of woodland edges and wet woods, crooked-stemmed aster grows well in moderately wet to average soils, under full sunlight to partial shade. Attaining a mature height of 1-3’, the plant can spread via rhizomes to form small colonies, and it will produce its lovely lavender flowers each year in the late summer to early autumn period.
Photo by Fritz Flohr Reynolds.