Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Friday, October 2, 2009

Little Asters Everywhere*

Asteraceae that is!

The plants formerly known as asters are blooming like gangbusters at Clay and Limestone. The Aster tataricus has been blooming for quite some time. It's a favorite of all the bees, skippers, moths and recently several Monarch Butterflies.

Monarch on Aster tataricus ...
Do enlarge this photo!

Once the rains stopped the fall blooming native asters popped open! Now there is a cloud of lilac-blue that is humming with bees all over the front gardens! The blue cloud is lovely to see, but in the deeper shade of the central bed it is nearly impossible to capture. Shooting macro is much more successful and fun. I can get up close and personal with the bees. They are too busy to pay attention to anyone. They rarely buzz me and, even when I am in their space, they move quickly on to the next flower. They're in hyperdrive to collect as much nectar as possible...winter is coming.

Symphyotrichum shortii

I have tentatively identified one of the blue asters as Aster shortii.
Now known as Symphyotrichum shortii. It's my favorite and I look forward to it blooming
each fall.

Symphyotrichum shortii formerly know as Short's Aster

Symphyotrichum shortii is a very prolific flowerer. According to Illinois Wildflower~
It can bloom for almost two months and spreads by seed and root to form small colonies!

That's my experience, too!
Long time readers will know
that words like colony, spreads by seed and roots won't scare me off...
Unless we are talking about the notorious Vinca gang or bush honeysuckle.
(Go here for the post)
I have the space and want the look of a buzzing cloud of blue.

It has been known to bloom lightly, here and there,
in the more protected parts of the garden until December.
That's a very nice habit.
Gardeners can forgive it falling over from bloom heaviness
when we add up all the pluses.
long bloom
easy care
beautiful blue flowers
bees and butterflies adore it

The Tartar Aster is not a native, but,
has been a big food source
for late visiting butterflies and bees.
I love 'Pardon My Big Aster'.
That's my name for this leggy beauty.

It's a lovely plant that makes a great big statement.
Even it's leaves are big.
It's a terrific antidote to the garden's serious case of 'Small Leaf Syndrome'.
Thank you Mother Nature for making this plant attractive to bees and butterflies...
Being a good critter magnet is an added bonus!
The pleasantly warm days and cool nights of autumn
are bringing changes to the garden.
I can see the first of the yellows in the tops of the tallest trees.
Fall can be a long season in the Middle South...
lasting until December, with occasional freezes.
It's a time for open windows, porch sitting and

I wish you were here to sit with me in the garden.


*With thanks apologies to Rebecca Wells for use of her book title Little Altars Everywhere
A great read, btw.


  1. What amazing captures of the visitors to the asters. I am going to continue calling them asters as the common name, don't care how symphonic they are! And monarchs too, how wonderful! You are a great saleman for these plants, may they be in every garden. :-)

  2. I think these wild asters are among the most beautiful of wildflowers... and they're everywhere right now. Your photos are lovely.

  3. How lovely, the monarch's stopped by!! Your asters are beautiful, love the delicate sprays of flowers.

  4. Those butterfly photos are absolutely beautiful!!!

    This year I added asters but they were New York asters, a more compact variety. Next year I will add something like you have. Taller and longer blooming.

  5. Love the butterflies, perfect photos!

  6. I love the tartarian asters so much. And to think a friend gave them to me as a mistake. They are so good for butterflies and bees. Fall is surely here and it is a wonderful time here in Tennessee. I can tell you are enjoying it.

  7. Your macro shots are amazing! Love the monarch with the bumblebee to his side.
    I think there is no photo that does justice to your garden. It seems it is teeming with grand sweeps of color and alive with butterflies and bees.
    Would love to share the bench and take in the beauty around me.

    ps- haven't read Rebecca Wells for a long time. :-)

  8. Just beautiful! I've never seen wild ones before. I love the pic of the chair too! -Jackie

  9. How wonderful that you have Monarchs visiting and were able to capture them digitally. (I was going to write "on film" but that really doesn't apply anymore). My Aster tataricus has finally started blooming.
    Ex-Aster shortii is such a graceful plant. If I had room...

  10. Isn't it amazing how in the fall when all the little insects need their strength to get ready for winter, the good Lord created all these lovely wildflowers for them? I'm thinking of the Ageratum too. By the way, while in NC, I pet a bumblebee and thought of you.~~Dee

  11. Ahh yes, I am all about those buzzing blooms of blue. Be careful about what you wish you might end up with a bench full of readers.

  12. Wow! Stunning photo's, lovely blog.

    RO :o)

  13. I'm so looking forward to the asters blooming in my garden! Yours are so lovely to look upon in the meantime:) I don't have either one of those. I tried Tartarian once and lost it- really surprised me. I'll have to try again.

  14. Aahhh, the beauty of Fall. Just to sit among all that beauty on that gorgeous bench would be the highlight of ones day. Maybe with a cup of hot tea.
    Love it.

  15. Gail,
    I have a chair just like that! Nobody sits in it, it will collapse. But I like the way you photographed it with the grasses/ and flowers.
    Lovely and thanks.

  16. Gail,
    Aren't the asters fabulous? Your macro photos are lovely -- getting up close and personal can be so much fun.

    (And hmm, Symphyotrichum spp.- what an unlovely name for a wonderful group of plants).

    I think I'd feel right at home in your garden!

  17. In a way it is odd that your grand sweeps of blue asters are completely different species than the sweeps of blue asters here, not so far away. They look so much alike and behave the same. Someone decided to split them all up and now they have remamed them all together. Aster confusion and profusion reigns. Congratulations on your wins at Blotanical.

  18. Beautiful captures of the asters and their visitors. The lighting is marvelous!

  19. Oh my, that new name is quite a mouthful. I think I'll stick to asters. They're beautiful Gail. I need to add some more ~ maybe I'll check into these. The bees would sure thank me, it seems. I love the photo of the asters & chair. It's a great composition.

  20. Hi Gail! I did enlarge the second picture, and I'm glad that I did! You caught not only a butterfly and a bee, but that flying green creature, too. It's busy there! Love asters and how you wrote about them. Thanks!

  21. I only have Aster frikartii 'Monch' so will go dig up some of these folks. Stopped by to say many felicitations on your wins at Blotanical!

  22. Gail - what gorgeous asters! Love, love, love them! Perfect nectar plants for fall.

    Wish the bunnies would leave them alone here. The ones planted last year were eaten to nubs so I gave up on them.

    Congratulations on the Best Native award. I am sorry that I missed the whole nomination and voting thing as I just didn't have a clue on what was happening until I saw the blogs in the last day or so (Charm got sick on Sept 23rd and it seemed to have all taken place since then).


  23. These Monarchs are beautiful, Gail; you are so fortunate to have been able to see them and to capture them in photographs. Maybe I need some more asters, too, to entice them to land in the garden here. I think I'll continue to call them asters, too--sympho....is just too big a mouthful:)

    I meant to comment last time on your source, Illinois Wildflowers. Isn't it a great website? I've used it frequently to help me identify a particular wildflower. By the way, many of the photos on that site were taken at Meadowbrook Park, which is near where I live and a place I've posted about before. Small world:)

  24. What beautiful photos and quite right you really must view full size especially the butterflies the detail is amazing and with the hover fly and bee as well.


  25. Beautiful Gail! Turns out two of the plants you sent me earlier this year are asters - blooms are teeny tiny white, and so pretty and airy in their clusters - like little fairy flowers.

    I understand the reasons, but I still can't help wishing they'd quit changing plant names - I'm getting too old to keep track of them all! Asters will always be asters to me.

  26. What a lovely visit to your garden Gail - especially good on a Sunday morning with a good cup of coffee - the Asters in your garden are a treat as are those beautiful butterflies you've photo'd - we certainly don't get these in France - reminded me of some of the species we saw when we visited Penang (just of Malaysia)!

    I can really understand what you're saying about capturing the spectacle of colour from a distance - my camera is great at Macro shots as you said yourself but taking photos from a distance just doesn't do the plants any justice and the vibrant colours don't stand out as much as they actually do! I love that old wooden seat you have in your garden - it kind of blends in well with the rest of your garden... enjoy the rest of your weekend - Miranda

  27. Hi Gail....I sat amongst the asters today and watched the bees......how delightful. My plants came from my fathers garden....he gave them to me when he moved, he always loved them for their forgiving nature.....

    Like you I cannot have enough of them....spread my beauties, as far as you can. If they call to bees then they are the plant for me....

    Happy Sunday Gail......hope you are well.......

  28. Hi Gail, I enjoyed your asters and critters. I clicked on a couple to enlarge them, and then I remembered to do a "command +" to see all of the photos larger. I see why you wanted us to click on the one, as I didn't notice whatever that flying thing on the left was, and the bee on the right. Great shots!

  29. These native asters are so much more beautiful and interesting than hybrid mums! Gorgeous shots!

  30. I still cannot get used to the new Latin name for asters, ha! Great photos of the monarchs. I saw one last week flying high above my garden. I yelled to him to come on down for a spell but I guess he didn't hear me. The Symphyotrichum shortii looks familiar to me. It might have been the kind that flowered here and there about my old garden. Gail, lovely post as usual!

  31. "Little Altars" is one of my favorite novels. I liked it so much better than the Ya-Ya Sisters. As for the flowers, I love those little blue ones (I'll call them "the shortis") You have a nice variety!

  32. A new name for asters, but only the new world asters! Yikes. All these new names are becoming like the secret handshake for some obscure botanical society. The closer they get to the chromosomal level, the more "precision" taxonomists will be able to confuse us with. Until then, gee, I like your asters.

  33. Gail what wonderful images of the butterflies! You have captured the beauty of your garden with these photos..love what I see!
    I appreciate your encouragement..I'm recovering ..getting stronger for the next round and your images I will hold in my mind and visualize.

  34. Symphyotrichum shortii eh? wow! finally someone has identified it!
    I wonder how many varieties Symphyotrichum there truly are in the area then, i seem to see white, pinkish, purple, different leaves and stems too- hmm- wonderful post i too am loving the "purple fog" that has taken over our roadsides in preist lake!

  35. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting! ...The native asters are my favorites and if you're into letting them bee;) You will be greatly rewarded. gail

  36. I envy you your monarchs - I've seen them popping up on other posts. We see them beginning in October but their numbers have been declining in our area for several years. I'll have to go to natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz where they roost and see how it's going this year.

    My asters too are not doing well this year - I have the native California aster which usually grows profusely but is maybe taking a year off?

  37. Hi Gail... Lovely to see the monarchs... my fields are filled with asters but not a monarch in sight... it has been dismal in this part of the world for the beauties. All the rain I guess... Alas! Great to see yours! Carol


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson