New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
The usually deep-purple flowers have up to 100 ray florets which are rarely pink or white. These surround the flower centers which are composed of just as many tiny yellow disk florets. The plant grows naturally in clumps, with several erect stems emerging from a single point. The stems are stout, hairy, and mostly unbranched. The untoothed, lance-shaped leaves clasp the stem with earlobe-like appendages, and the lower stem leaves often wither by the time of flowering. We lovingly refer to this process as “Aster ankles.” A gardener can somewhat prevent Aster ankles by giving the plant two “haircuts” through the summer. One cut at the Fourth of July and one on Labor Day. Purchasing an ounce of Aster seed can result in hundreds of plants.
New England Aster is one of the easiest plants to grow from seed, which makes it a great choice for home schooling garden projects. Bunnies love New England Aster foliage. How could they not? It smells heavenly, and when the flowers finally come in fall… lovely. Thankfully New England Aster is tough enough to stand up to rabbit browsing. It is one of the native plants that co-evolved with the rabbits and is a natural food source.
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