The dry, shady forest floor is carpeted all summer by the lush foliage of myriad woodland asters. Although it is very common, most people don’t even notice them until they flower in September.
Asters thrive in both sun and shade and can tolerate dry conditions. They make great ground cover because they grow so well in various light and soil moisture regimes.
Asters are THE most common and longest-blooming wildflower in dry, open woods. They begin blooming in August and often last into October. They fill the autumn forests of New England with shades of pale white, periwinkle, pale blue to deep blue. As flowers fade, they take on a pink tone.
Because Asters bloom in fall, when little else is blooming, asters are a favorite of bees and butterflies. The flowers provide nectar for these late season pollinators. After the flowers finish blooming, birds including juncos, sparrows and goldfinches feed on the seed so gardeners are advised to leave the plants standing throughout the winter. Don’t deadhead your asters!
The fluffy dried flowers with seeds are used by a variety of birds for food and nesting material.
One of Robert Frost’s earliest poems titled “A Late Walk” describes his sad autumn stroll. Frost ends with:
“I end not far from my going forth, by picking the faded blue.
Of the last remaining aster flower to carry again to you.”