As I mentioned in this column last week, I plan to feature several of the local asters from now through the middle of November. I'm glad I only promised five more because there are many more that might be present.
In fact, I visited the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plant database and discovered there are 489 entries listed as asters that are growing in the United States. Of course, the habitat of many of them are in the West and North; however, I have not researched how many have been officially identified in our area of Georgia.
I was overwhelmed by those numbers and thus the verse for today is Psalm 65:6. "Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man's behalf " (NIV).
The bushy aster, also known as the rice button aster, is a prolific bloomer. It may start blooming as early as August along the roadsides and stream banks where the soil is sandy and moist. Areas of red clay are not a likely habitat.
The plants are heavily branched and spread laterally, though the rather stiff plant may reach 3 feet tall. The leaves along the stem are thin and lance-shaped, 1 to 3 inches long, but the leaves on the branches are about 1/2-inch and so thick as to obscure the branch, as pictured.
Asters are members of the sunflower family, which includes daisy, marigold, goldenrod, chicory, coreopsis, fleabane and thistle. Thus, the petals are rays with florets in the center. Each floret has five stamens atop the ovary which produces one seed (same as the sunflower).
The tiny bushy aster florets have five short bristles instead of petals. The rays of the bushy aster that I have examined are white but, according to my wildflower reference books, they are sometimes pale lavender. The 1/2-to 5/8-inch blooms appear along the full length of the branch, as pictured.
The pollen on the stamens is a golden yellow and as the bloom ages it turns brownish.
Next week we will examine the New York aster and enjoy its sturdy lavender blooms.
Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His e-mail is email@example.com or call him at 770-929-3697.