Symphyotrichum pilosum is known by several common names, depending upon what part of its growing range you hail from: hairy aster, frost aster, hairy white aster, old-field aster, and, awl aster.
Often described as a bushy plant, it's a delicate arching plant at Clay and Limestone. Snipping it back early in the summer might make for a shorter and bushier plant, but, I prefer the graceful look of arches in my garden to counteract the many tall wildflowers.
Frost aster started blooming as the S novae-angliae and Solidagoes were beginning to decline and just as the little asters everywhere began to bloom. They're still blooming and looking good after several heavy rainfalls and two frosty nights. I appreciate its long lasting floral display and so do the pollinators. Late blooming flowering plants are extremely important food sources for pollinators still out and about on beautiful warm fall days.
During the summer the green stems are hidden by Susans and other blooming beauties. You might consider combining them with bluestems (the red fall colors would be a delightful contrast) or perennials like Tradescantia and Phlox paniculatas. If your garden is dry, Monarda punctata, Parthenium integrifolium and Asclepias tuberosa gone to seed would be good partners.
|yellow centers are surrounded by many (16-35) white ray florets|
- an easy peasy, no maintenance plant
- a delightful extended season of bloom (Sept - Dec),
- showy white flowers
- graceful arching stems
- a floral display that keeps on keeping on~it's not stopped by rain, sleet, snow or freezing
- a delicate sweet scent
- a pollinator magnet
|the stems of this little aster are covered in fine, fuzz-like hairs|
Symphyotrichum pilosum is native to every state in North America east of the Rockies and also to eastern Canadian provinces. In Latin, pilos means 'hairy' and the stems of this little aster are covered in fine, fuzz-like hairs.
Symphyotrichum is a genus of about 90 species of herbaceous annual and perennial plants that were formerly treated within the genus Aster; I affectionately refer to them as the Ex-asters. Frost aster like the other ex-asters in my garden is native to Middle Tennessee. They all grow and thrive in the shallow clay soil and semi-shady to almost full sun conditions of my Zone7 garden (formerly Zone6b)
|the yellow centers may become reddish with age|
Botanical name: Symphyotrichum pilosum
Common Name: hairy aster, frost aster, hairy white old-field aster, awl aster
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Native Range: Eastern North America and western Canada
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: September to October and into November (middle Tennessee)
Bloom Description: White rays and pale yellow center discs. Showy and attractive to native bees and butterflies
Leaves: Alternate, Simple, Entire; Long lance-shaped. The lower ones often disappear during hot summer months
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Mesic to dry conditions
Soil: Loam, clay-loam, sandy loam, or gravelly material
Distinctive features: Very fuzzy stem, as if coated with a thick frost.
Comments: This aster is easy to cultivate, but it can spread aggressively by reseeding itself, especially in open disturbed areas. You'll see this plant out the car window in empty field, highway medians, disturbed areas, along railroad tracts and empty neighborhood lots.
Wildlife Value: Moderately deer resistant. Host plant for the Pearl Crescent butterfly. Flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies. Songbirds and small mammals eat the seeds. Members of the genus Symphyotrichum species support the following specialized bees: Andrena (Callandrena s.l.) asteris, Andrena (Callandrena s.l.) asteroides, Andrena (Cnemidandrena) hirticincta, Andrena (Cnemidandrena) nubecula, Andrena (Callandrena s.l.) placata, Andrena (Callandrena s.l.) simplex, and Colletes simulans. (source)
Ecological Value: Because of its "weedy" nature it is great at colonizing disturbed and "waste places". It protects soil from erosion and provides food for wildlife where more sensitive plants cannot yet grow.(source)
*The Bumble Bees, honeybees, Miner bees, and large Leaf-Cutting bees (long-tongued bees), bee flies, butterflies, and skippers that visit all the late blooming ex-asters for nectar and pollen are essential for cross pollination or all those fluffy seeds would be infertile. So never, ever, ever, ever use pesticides, if you want pollinators to pollinate your ex-asters and other plants!
Welcome to Clay and Limestone and Wildflower Wednesday. This day is about sharing wildflowers and other native plants no matter where one gardens~the UK, tropical Florida, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, India or the coldest reaches of Canada. It doesn't matter if we sometimes share the same plants. It doesn't matter if they're in bloom (think winter sharing), how they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most.
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.