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NEW ENGLAND ASTER Aster novae-angliae

In Revelation 22:16, just six verses before the end of the New Testament, the author notes Jesus referring to himself as “the bright morning star.” May this Lord’s Day provide you the opportunity to celebrate the generous gifts of beauty that the stars of the wildflower kingdom provide.

NEW ENGLAND ASTER Aster novae-angliaeAs noted earlier articles, asters have nearly 500 genera in the United States. Some have very narrow ranges, being confined to a specific locale. For example there is a Georgia aster, a Nebraska aster, a Texas aster, a Pacific aster, a Yukon aster, and an Oahu aster only found on the main island of Hawaii. Speaking of confined habitats, there is one called the Apalachicola Aster. However, the New England aster is present in over 40 states and one-half of the Canadian provinces.

Wilbur and Marion Duncan, in their book “Wildflowers of the Eastern United States,” published by University of Georgia Press (1999), identify 25 species in Georgia.

The New England aster is a lavender variety with a larger than average bloom for an aster. Some of these reach 2 inches across while the common white aster (p. 26, Vol. 2), so prevalent along our byways, is about 1/2 inch wide. The yellow central disk of this large aster is often more than 1/2 inch wide.

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The New England aster, in the ideal habitat, may grow to 7 feet, according to four of the sources on which I rely. I find that hard to believe because those on our property have rarely reached more than 3 feet. This aster is said to thrive best in moist fields, meadows, and ditches. Ours seem to survive best under hardwood trees where the mulch is thick, thus minimizing the dehydration that direct sun causes.

Besides the color, size of bloom and height, New England asters are distinguished by the leaves. First they clasp the stem tightly, as pictured. Second, they are very hairy on top with the sides of the long lance-shaped leaves turned upward. Several species of asters have leaves that are much broader. However, the white aster has very narrow leaves, half the width of a school pencil.

The name “aster” is from the Greek for “star.” In England, asters were once known as “starworts.” (“wort” means herb or plant). May this Lord’s Day provide you the opportunity to celebrate the generous gifts of beauty that the stars of the wildflower kingdom provide.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit The Sketching Pad in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.

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