Table of Contents for Many-ray Aster (Symphyotrichum anomalum)
Many-ray Aster (Symphyotrichum anomalum) is a herbaceous perennial that is native to the midwestern United States. This plant is a host to the Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) and American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) butterflies and several moths. Growing from 0.75 to 4 feet tall, this species grows in dry woods and thickets. The purplish to lavender ray flowers and yellow disk flowers bloom from July to November and the plant is hardy in zones 5-7.
Taxonomy and Naming of Many-ray Aster (Symphyotrichum anomalum)
Many-ray Aster (Symphyotrichum anomalum) was originally named and described by George Engelmann, a German-American botanist in 1843 as Aster anomalum. In 1995, it was placed in the Symphyotrichum genus, by Guy Nesom, another American botanist. It has kept this same name since and is a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae).
Meaning of the Scientific and Common Names
The genus name, Symphyotrichum, was re-established when the North American Aster species were renamed. It derives its name from the Greek words “Symphysis” and “thriks“, which together mean hair growing together (Wikipedia). The species name, anomalum, means deviation from normal.
Common Name and Alternative Names
The common name comes from the multitude of ray flowers. Another common name is cliff aster, and is the name of one of the habitats of the species (Illinoiswildflowers).
- Plant Type: This plant is a herbaceous perennial.
- Height: 0.75 to 4 feet tall
- Stem: The stems are erect and pubescent to glabrous.
- Leaves: The leaves are alternate, petiolate (sometimes winged (missouriplants.com)), oblong to lanceolate and have thick, entire to somewhat serrate margins. They are 1.5 to 3.5 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. The leaves are scabrous to somewhat pubescent (Flora of North America). The upper leaves clasp the stem (Missouri Botanical Garden).
- Flower color: white, lavender to dark purple ray flowers and cream to yellow disk flowers
- Blooming period: This plant blooms from July to November.
- Fruiting type and period: This plant has achenes that mature in the late fall and winter.
Range of Many-ray Aster in the United States and Canada
This aster species is native to the mid-western United States. It is considered to be rare in the state of Kansas.
This species grows in rocky open woods and thickets (Flora of North America), bluffs (Illinoiswildflowers), roadsides (Missouriplants.com), glades and upland prairies (Weakley, et al 2022) and limestone cliffs (Lammers 2017).
Other Supported Wildlife
This species is a nectar source to other butterflies, skippers, bees, and wasps during the growing season. In the fall this species is a food source for many small mammals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does this plant have any ethnobotanical uses?
The Native American Ethobotanical Database does not cite this species specifically, but asters in general have been used for medicines, jewelry, foods, and for ceremonial uses.
How is this plant distinguished from other Asters?
This species is similar to the rigid-white top aster (Symphyotrichum retroflexum), but differs in that rigid-white top aster has lanceolate phyllaries and many-ray aster has linear phyllaries (Weakley, et al 2022). It has also been described as similar to Drummond’s aster (Symphyotrichum drummondii), but Drummond’s aster has larger flowers (Illinoiswildflowers).
Is this plant invasive?
This plant has not been noted as being weedy.
Gardening with Scale-leaf Aster
This species is hardy in zones 5-7. If your garden is within these zones and you have the right growing conditions (soil, moisture and exposure), you may well be able to grow this plant. However, if planted outside of its range, the hosted species may not recognize the plant or be harmed by ingesting a different species with an unfamiliar chemical composition.
This species grows in full sun with mesic to dry well-drained soils.
- Lammers, Thomas G. 2017. Dr. Moses Cousins, Jr.: The mysterious Iowa contributor to Alphonso Wood’s “Class-book of Botany” Brittonia 69: 253-264.
- Weakley, A.S., and Southeastern Flora Team. 2022. Flora of the southeastern United States. University of North Carolina Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden.