Scientific Name: Aster novae-angliae
As a prime example of a native plant which is highly cultivated, this entry will look at both. New England Aster is a very common and native perennial herb which favors upland moist to saturated conditions. Purple Dome Aster is a close cultivar of it’s New England predecessor, but is smaller and better suited to gardens. Both Asters flower from late summer into fall until the frost.
Watch for: New England(pictured right) : Robust clusters of plants in the wild that stand up to 6.5 ft tall. Purple flowers with many pedals and yellow stamen (center) cluster at the top of stalks. Leaves lance-shaped. Purple Dome(pictured top): Rounded dome shape plant that stands about 20” tall.
Other names: False Indigo
History: New England Aster has been used by 1st Nations Tribes which share common land. The Lakota use it to burn in sweat lodges. It’s flowers and roots have been used to treat headaches, nosebleeds, gas pains, stomach aches, and congestion.
Tidbits: Asters are wonderful fall pollen hot-spots for bees. Beekeepers have reported some Aster species to produce an aroma of fresh brownies when bees are producing honey from the flowers. However, a brownie smell or taste isn’t actually present in the finished honey. Burning Asters over coals can also produce the same effect. Also, pinching back young Aster growth before July will cause plants to branch.
Gardens/ Cultivation: New England Aster does poorly in gardens as it’s height causes it to fall over. In the wild, it avoids this by producing large stands to support the tall plants, yet such stands are rarely possible in a garden. The solution however came with a cultivar of New England Aster which was Purple Dome Aster. Purple Dome is a great late-summer flower for Minnesota gardens since it flowers up to the frost. It’s provides a heavy dose of color, and is therefore usually planted in a garden for a solid purple border. Purple Dome attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and bees late into the season, and is also deer-resistant. Overall this is a practical and valuable, and still aesthetic addition to Northern temperate gardens.
Purple Dome pitured at Sentyrz Supermarket in North Minneapolis
Kindsher, Kelly. Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie: An Ethnobotanical Guide. University Press of Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas, 1992.
Schmidt, Rusty and Shaw, Daniel. Plants for Stormwater Design. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2003.