Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Heath Aster-Symphyotrichum ericoides

I haven't posted in nearly two months, and I sleep a lot more than I used too. Ha. I'm afraid my strength is waning as I approach the big six-o. Funny, my mind seems ok. Or at least I think so. It seems with the advent of social media my blog posts have decreased and my social media post have decidedly increased proportionally. I suppose I may be succumbing to the instant gratification. Na! Just lazy.
    Photo above taken October 14
Heath Aster-Symphyotrichum ericoides
This aster is one of our local and state natives. It seems it is quite prevalent throughout the nation . It was not my intention to plant it originally, as this particular aster arrived with a Big Bluestem transplant from a industrial vacant lot. You can vaguely see the seed head of the bluestem above inside the aster. Upon observing the initial growth in the spring I was hesitant to adopt the newly risen treasure. The foliage greatly resembled kochia which I dreaded to pull as a kid in our alley way in Wyoming. I used to call it a tumbleweed, as it had a long taproot which broke off and would blow around and it was impossible to pull out when the ground was dry in summer. But alas I was anxious to observe what growth pattern would evolve.

This photo bove shows two more Heath Aster tag-a-along plants, one came in with Indiangrass and the other with poppy mallow.
The video from myiPhone above was taken in late October, the Heath Aster with all the daisy type blooms was loaded with hundreds of pollinators. My associate gardener enjoyed following the butterflies around him. This aster plant had been trimmed like a hedge twice during the summer, and as you compare this plant to those you see in natural environments it is considerably larger.

Symphyotrichum ericoides   (L. ) G.L. Nesom
[=Aster ericoides L.]
Konza Prairie, Riley County, Kansas
Height: 1-3 feet
Family: Asteraceae - Sunflower Family
Flowering Period:   September,October
Also Called: White aster, many-flowered aster.
Stems: Ascending or erect to almost prostrate, few to many, often clustered, slender, stiff, much-branched, rough hairy above.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, sessile or slightly clasping, linear to linear-lanceolate, 1/2 to 2 inches long, less than 1/4 inch wide, rigid, rough; margins entire; tips pointed; branch leaves much smaller and crowded; most basal and lower stem leaves absent at flowering.
Inflorescences: Panicles of numerous, densely crowded heads, primarily on 1 side of arching branches.
Flowers: Heads cylindric to bell-shaped, less than 1/2 inch across; bracts strongly overlapping, tipped with bristles; ray florets 10-18, white or rarely pinkish; disk florets 5-14, corollas yellowish to reddish purple.
Fruits: Achenes, small, appressed-hairy, purplish brown, tipped with white, hair-like bristles, enclosing small, silky seed.
Habitat: Dry open prairies, disturbed sites, pastures, and roadsides.
Distribution: Throughout Kansas.
Toxicity: Known to accumulate selenium, but livestock rarely consume it.
Comments: This is the most common Kansas aster. It grows in colonies and is drought hardy, with roots that descend 3 to 8 feet. Heath aster is one of the last plants to remain in flower in the autumn. Heath aster lowers the quality of prairie hay.*

 Obviously this plant has a place in any Native Garden. Check it out!

*All plant information above taken from kswildflower.org. from the KState Library.


  1. I have a heath aster that appeared in my garden. It looks nice when in bloom and attracts a number of pollinators. I just hope it does not begin appearing everywhere. So far, it has behaved. Looks like you have a great garden helper there.

    1. Hey Michael! Yes, it's been kind of surprise plant for me. It's the first native"weed" I've (let) grow that actually looks good trimmed,much like most of the fall asters that flop. I was surprised how long it bloomed, almost three months.

  2. Welcome back! I missed seeing you around but sometimes it is OK to be lazy. Your gardens are looking good and the aster sure is nice. I enjoyed your video clip as well. Enjoy your day!

  3. I like the Heath Aster. I have a few spaces it could fill if it wanted!

    1. They should be easy to find in any disturbed area.

  4. Wow, I need to learn to recognize this as it seeds naturally in my flower beds. It's all over my prairie backyard, but it doesn't form nice clumps back there, I guess because of the competition. Good post Greg.

  5. 'Thanks Prof. These plants are in high nutrient composted soils so they grow quite a bit larger than there prairie cousins, I pruned the large one twice.

  6. Your garden looked great and the heath aster looks good there. I'm thinking it doesn't look quite like this right now. Brrrr.

    We have a different native aster in Texas as I'm sure you know and it is amazing in the late fall. I'm getting a patch going which should look really good next fall.

  7. Good to see you posting again, Greggo, and to see your garden again.

  8. I suffer the same syndrome, but the first thing that seems to fall by the wayside is the timely visiting of other bloggers. Consider yourself visited.

  9. Heath aster grows well in PA, too, Greggo. I love all asters. I am impressed with the way you superimpose plant names on your photographs. This is a great way to keep track of what is planted. I need to learn to do that. P. x

  10. Hi Gregg, Yes, I tend to gravitate towards Facebook instead of visit blogs. I don't know why exactly since it's always a pleasure once I see what my blogging buddies are up to. It seems like so long ago when the sun was shining and we could feel the warmth of the sun so your video was a real treat. The associate gardener is adorable! I hope you have a warm and wonderful Christmas.

  11. My heath aster was damaged so badly by the bunnies, I pulled it out. They had eaten it to the point it was dying, anyway. But of course, seeing it in your garden makes me want it all over again. :o)


Thanks for leaving any comments, they are always welcomed. Sorry I had to add word verification as spam was becoming a huge problem. Greggo,