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The daisy-like, yellow-centered flowers of this aster form luscious, lavender-colored mounds from late summer until the first heavy frost. A generous amount of foliage gathers on the rigid stems of this native wildflower that grows 1 to 3 feet tall in a wide range of moist to dry, well-drained soils and full to part sun. The herbaceous perennial tolerates drought and makes an excellent groundcover for dry, sunny locations, but it’s easy to grow in a variety of conditions, from sunny borders and walkways to partly shaded, naturalized areas. It grows on disturbed soils and is useful for wildlife restoration. In domestic landscapes, it’s an excellent choice to replace colorful but non-native chrysanthemums, and it releases a patchouli- or balsamic-like scent when the leaves are bruised (another common name is aromatic aster). The name “shale barren” comes from the plant’s ability to thrive in areas such as the shale barrens in the central Appalachian Mountains, where plants have adapted to direct sun, steep slopes, and calcareous soils. Shale barren aster is threatened in Ohio due to over-shading by non-native invasive plants, and it has been documented in only four counties: Adams, Belmont, Brown, and Hocking.  


As one of the top keystone perennials in Ohio, asters’ pollen is vital to the successful overwintering of many insect species, and monarchs rely on the nectar to fuel their migration. Bumble bee queens are often found on asters as they stock up on energy before hibernating. Numerous varieties of bird species eat the seeds and foliage.  


Shale barren aster colonizes by stolons and may need regular thinning to control its spread. To prevent top-heaviness and leaning stems, prune it back by no more than half in mid-June. It may be transplanted in spring or autumn. Asters are susceptible to leaf spots, rusts, and mildews, which affect the lower leaves but are usually harmless.  


Native habitats include dry, open ground; calcareous slopes; and prairies. Plant in masses along walkways, in borders, in meadows, and in naturalized areas.  


Plant Characteristics: 

Grows 1-2’ tall. 


Prefers full sun or part shade. 


Prefers moist to dry, well-drained soils, including clay, loamy, rocky, and sandy.  


Composite flowers are 1-1 ½” wide with 25-30 blue-purple rays and yellow center-disk flowers. The bracts are glandular with long, loose tips. Blooms appear August-October and give way to seed October-November.  


Alternate, oblong, sessile (no petiole) leaves are 2-4” long with smooth margins. They descend in size as they climb the hairy, glandular stem.  


Wildlife Value: 

Host plant for larvae of 112 species of Lepidoptera in central Ohio, including the pearl crescent, gorgone and silvery checkerspot butterflies, and four specialist moths--aster flowerhead, aster-head phaneta, essex phaneta, and Hoffman's cochlid. Visitors include dozens of moth species, butterflies and skippers, bumble bees, mining bees, leafcutter bees, flower flies, bee flies, and soldier beetles. The seed heads attract goldfinches, chickadees, nuthatches, and other birds in fall and winter. Wild turkeys feed on the seeds and leaves, while deer and rabbits occasionally browse on the leaves. 


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses: 

Parts of the plant were used to make poultices for pain; drinks for diarrhea, fever and respiratory ailments; and tinctures for skin diseases and rashes. The plant was burned to produce a smoke cloud to revive unconscious people.  

Aster, Aromatic, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium

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