1198 Symphyotrichum oblongifoliumCommon Names: aromatic aster, fall aster Family: Asteraceae (aster/daisy Family)
Aromatic aster, is a perennial that creeps by slender rhizomes to form a compact, bushy plant up to a foot (30 cm) or so across and as much as 2-3 ft (60-90 cm) tall, but often no more than 20 in (50 cm) tall. The stems are hairy and sticky. The leaves, pleasantly fragrant when crushed, are oblong and around 4 in (10 cm) long and 2 in (5 cm) wide. They are attached directly to the stem without a petiole (a condition called sessile), and sometimes they clasp the stem with short earlike extensions at the leaf base. Lower leaves usually drop off in summer, leaving the rigid and brittle lower stems naked. The flowerheads are about an inch and a quarter (3.31 mm) across, and carried in loose clusters called corymbs. The 20-40 narrow rays are bright purple to blue and the disc florets are yellow. The cultivar ‘Roseus’ has rose-pink rays. 'Raydon's Favorite' is a particularly robust and reliable selection, 2-3 ft (60-90 cm) tall, that produces an abundance of purple-blue flowers late in the season.
Aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) is native to the prairie region of central North America from MT south to TX and east to PA and NC. It grows in dry, open areas, rocky bluffs, prairies and in meadows with limestone near the surface. It is often seen sprawling over rock ledges.
Aromatic aster tolerates poor soils, including clayey, sandy, and even shallow, rocky soils. It likes calcareous conditions and doesn’t do well in acidic soils. Light: Aromatic aster does best in full sun but can tolerate some light shade. Moisture: Aromatic aster is quite drought tolerant and needs a well drained soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 - 9. Propagation: Aromatic aster will spread by its rhizomes and may need to be controlled to keep it in bounds. To propagate, just cut off some clumps of the rhizomes in spring and transplant them to new locations. Seeds may be planted in fall or early winter. Softwood stem tip cuttings can be rooted.
Aromatic aster is a very late blooming wildflower whose bright purple mounds provide eye candy for us and sweet nectar for butterflies and native bees. One of the last flowers to bloom each fall, aromatic aster is used in wildflower gardens, herbaceous beds and borders, and for naturalizing. This is one of the lowest growing asters and suitable for the front of borders and beds where other fall blooming flowers would be much too tall. Aromatic aster is said to be ignored by deer. Its natural tolerance to drought makes it ideal for low maintenance landscaping.
The huge Aster genus was subdivided into several smaller genera and aromatic aster wound up in the tongue twister, Symphyotrichum. The name loosely translates as “hairs growing together”, a reference to the trichomes or hairs often present on the stems and leaves of many of the 90 species in the genus, or perhaps to the appearance of the flowerheads whose narrow (hair-like) rays all emanate from the same central location. Whatever.
Steve Christman 10/7/13