FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Aster pilosus is a shrubby native wildflower with erect or arching stems. It is often described as a weedy species and if all humans were environmental stewards it might have no merit. In reality though, disturbance happens and this trouper will survive. In late summer clouds of starry white daisies perform a valuable community service by feeding the bees and butterflies.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Considered by many to be somewhat invasive, Aster pilosus occurs in early successional fields, disturbed prairies and meadows, pastures and on roadsides, railroad rights of way and other traumatized sites
The species is widely distributed in eastern and central North America.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 3-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Aster pilosus is a robust upright perennial that forms colonies from underground rhizomes. The vigorous plants spread by re-seeding as well.
Basal leaves are narrowly oval with a toothed edge and scattered white hairs. The hairs give the appearance of frost. Upper leaves are smaller and toothless.
Branched flower panicles begin blooming in early autumn and continue for about 6 weeks. The flower heads are composed of a ring of white petal-like ray florets surrounding a central cluster of yellow or rose colored disc florets. The heads are produced in profusion blooming until after a hard frost. They are frequented by bees and butterflies and are especially important to late season nectar seekers.
Plants grow 3-4’ tall with 3’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Plants prefer sunny exposures but tolerate light shade. This is a durable plant that thrives in adverse soils including disturbed poor gravelly soil and infertile sand or clay,
Plants tolerate average, dry or moist soil. They aggressively self-seed to the point that some describe the plant as “weedy”. This may not be an issue in open disturbed sites but in smaller spaces, spent flowers can be removed to prevent seed formation.
Aster pilosus is drought tolerant and somewhat unpalatable to deer and rabbits.
LANDSCAPE USES: This is a good choice for a Wildlife Garden. Prairie or Meadow. Plants are also used as Butterfly Nectar Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting. Aster pilosus has Showy Blooms and can be used for Erosion Control or in Deer Resistant Plantings, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Roadsides and Restoration Projects.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: In disturbed areas try pairing Aster pilosus with Andropogon glomeratus, Eupatorium hyssopifolium, Solidago rugosa and Tradescantia ohioensis.
Aster divaricatus would provide a similar effect in shade and Aster lateriflorus ‘Lady in Black’ would be a suitable garden substitute.
TRIVIA: Many of the established Latin names of Aster spp. were changed recently due to DNA and genetic research findings. So Aster pilosus is now known as Symphyotrichum pilosum.
This species is very similar to Aster lateriflorus. Differences in the two include the fact that Aster pilosus has larger flower heads with more rays. Also Aster lateriflorus is a woodland aster that grows best in moist shady habitats.
Plants host caterpillars of the Pearl Crescent and Checkerspot Butterflies.