|Photo by Tiwago via Flickr|
|Photo via Missouri Plants|
|Photo via TS Flowers|
Ah, the Aster, a wildflower native through-out the US, Europe, and Asia. September. Autumn. Chill in the air. The first whiffs of that crunchy dry leaf smell as you weed and work around in your late season garden, corralling the wild aster back with the borders of the bed. She's sweet, our September gal.
Asters get their name from an old Greek word meaning "star", referring to the shape of the flower. Also called Starworts, Michaelmas Daisies or Frost Flowers, this star-like flower can be found in a variety of colors – white, red, pink, purple, lavender and blue, with mostly yellow centers. Aster flowers are popular in many gardens for their attractive and colorful blossoms and ability to grow in all hardiness zones. Interestingly while an Aster blossom may appear to be a single flower it is not so; an Aster’s bloom is actually a combination of approximately 300 small (usually yellow) flowerets surrounded by colorful petals. They possess a Daisy-like appearance which is often deceptive as they are actually a member of the Sunflower family. If you need a blast of late season color, Aster is the gal for you.
|Aster Border, Waterperry Gardens|
Aster are a rich source of nectar for bees and butterflies. As they bloom during the peak of the monarch migration, they are an important waystation for our lepidopterian travellers. Because they also attract so many bees, plant them away from areas where you walk or play, especially if you have significant bee allergies. The shrubs can grow up to 3 feet tall, depending on the variety, so if you plant them away from the house you will still be able to enjoy their beauty.
Asters have long been considered an enchanted flower. Legend says that the goddess Asterea cried when she looked at the earth and saw no stars. Where her tears fell to the ground, Aster bloomed. Others believed that Asters were stardust scattered on the earth by the goddess.
|Aster and Goldentrod. Source|
Aster have been traditionally used by Native American tribes by burning the flowers and leaves, the smoke being used in Inipi (sweat lodge) Ceremonies, to revive the unconscious, to treat mental illness, nosebleeds, headaches, congestion. The dried blossoms were also snuffed for similar purposes, or the vapor inhaled as a steam. Aster tea was used to treat earache, relieve gas pains, stomach aches, and fevers.
Earthnotes has an extensive page listing the medicinal uses of a wide number of aster species. Please keep in mind that many plants are not recommended for medicinal or food uses, some even being poisonous. I am not recommending or supporting their uses for either purpose, just sharing the lore and history of the Aster.
It was once believed that the fragrance of their burning leaves would drive away evil spirits and it was believed during Medieval times that it would drive away serpents. The "star-flower" was believed to be sacred to the gods and so wreaths of asters were placed on their altars. The roots of Aster were crushed and fed to bee colonies that were in poor health. The flavor of homey is said to be improved if you boil asters in wine and place it near the hives.
|China Aster, an annual. Source|
The meaning of the September Birth Flower, the Aster is Love, Faith, Wisdom and symbolizes Valor. The hidden message of the the aster, so favored during the Victorian era, was "Take care of yourself for me". During Victorian times, people were strongly restricted by the rules of etiquette and it was considered totally inappropriate to express feelings of love or affection. Aster is also considered appropriate, due to its meaning and symbolism, to give on Grandparent's Day (September 1), Teacher's Day (September 4th) and Patriot Day (September 11). And of course birth month flowers are beautiful for special celebrations of the month such as birthdays (duh) and weddings.
|Munstead Wood, Surrey Source|
|Aster Seed, Source|
Before we go, let's take an upclose look at the Aster. The two images below are from Microscopy-UK. The first link will take you to the Aster page, photographed by Brian Johnston from Canada and is full of his amazing and gorgeous Aster photos. The second link takes you to Microscopy-IK where you can find anything and everything you never knew you wanted to know about microscopy.
|Sticky glandular protuberances on the bracts shown in the photo above.|
|Monarch juicing up for the trip to Mexico. Source|
Thank you so much for visiting today. And Happy Birthday to all of you Aster Babies- you're each a star! (See what I did there?)