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Asters are the perfect September birth flower because they flower when September days become shorter and nights are longer. Flowers of asters are initiated in July and by September are in full bloom – a true autumn blooming ornamental.
The scientific name for aster is (Aster spp.). Its generic name, Aster, is used as the reference for other genera in the family Asteraceae (formerly Compositae). The Asteraceae family is commonly referred to as the aster, daisy, or sunflower family. The common characteristic of plants in the Asteraceae family is why the family was previously assigned Compositae: what appears at a glance to be a single blossom is actually a composite blossom of many smaller individual flowers that develop on and around a center disk.
The disk resembles a star, which is the root word for aster. Asters are named from the Latin ‘star’ for their star-shaped flower heads, giving rise to amusing yet descriptive common names by which it was first known in England – star plant, starwort and spacewort. By the 1700’s the name aster was in common usage.
The name aster also has roots in Greek mythology, which loosely echoes the book of Genesis in the Bible. When ‘gods’ created the earth in the Golden Age, before evil entered the world, the goddess Astraea lived on earth as the goddess of innocence. But when sin prevailed, she left the earth and was metamorphosed into the constellation Virgo. The rampant sin angered the chief god Zeus, leading to him sending a flood to cleanse the earth. All perished but Deucalian and Pyrrha; they were lonely and became morose. Astraea saw their unhappiness and created starlight for them, her tears falling as stardust, which were changed into star-shaped flowers, the starworts or asters.
The aster is a delightful small-flowered herbaceous perennial. Flowers are borne on slender stems that bob in the breeze, bringing cheerful sparkles with their daisy-like flowers with hues of blues and purples. Asters are available as container and pot plants in the autumn. When blooms are spent cut back flower heads and transplant into the perennial garden. Place in full sun; keep moist but not wet until a root system has been established. If planted a month or so before the first freeze, roots will establish before plants overwinter. Mulch the first winter to protect the root system. Next spring plants will emerge in the garden and begin a new cycle of blooms.
As an autumn blooming perennial, asters extend the flowering season for pollinators. Bees and butterflies are attracted to the late-season source of nectar.
A bit of trivia: the etymological link survives in English parlance, the words “asterisk”, for ‘little star’ and “disaster”, for sinister connections such as ‘ill-starred’ and ‘against the stars’.
Etymology from A Contemplation Upon Flowers, B. J. Ward Ed.
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Dainty lavender-blue, yellow-centered 2-inch blossoms of an aster are a cheerful late-season blossom in the perennial garden. Daisy-like flowers are shaped like a s