Short’s aster (Symphyotrichum shortii) is a native wildflower that can be found in Kentucky, Tennessee, and most of the surrounding states. It’ll grow to about 3 feet tall. The upper portion of the stem and upper leaves have tiny, stiff hairs that give the plant a slightly rough feeling. It often grows in relatively dry, semi-shady areas and can sometimes be found growing in mass along roadsides, in open woods, or along woods edges.
The flowers on Short’s aster are a pale blue to lavender color. When the flowers first bloom, the centers are yellow, but will turn a reddish-purple after they have been pollinated. Often each plant will have so many flowers that the weight of the flowers will cause the plant to lean over. These late blooming flowers can be especially important to pollinators as a late source of nectar and pollen.
Short’s aster is one of the last asters to bloom in the fall, typically August to October in Kentucky. Each plant has a relatively long bloom time, often lasting a month or more. Many different pollinators including honey bees, bumble bees, small native bees, and butterflies are highly attracted to it. Short’s aster, like many other native asters, is also a host plant for the caterpillars of the silvery checkerspot and the pearl crescent butterflies.
If you are interested in planting native wildflowers for pollinators, Short’s aster is one to consider, especially if you have a semi-shady area with medium to dry soil. You might be able to get it to grow in a sunnier area, but may need to water it during dry periods. When grown in good-sized blocks, Short’s aster can produce a beautiful, late fall display as most other wildflowers are starting to fade.
This article was part of Shannon’s original Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife blog which evolved into the blog for Backyard Ecology.
Backyard Ecology: Exploring Nature in Your Backyard
Nature isn’t just “out there.” It’s all around us, including right outside our doors. Hi, my name is Shannon Trimboli, and I am the host of Backyard Ecology. I live in southcentral Kentucky and am a wildlife biologist, educator, author, beekeeper, and owner of a nursery specializing in plants for pollinators and wildlife conservation. I invite you to join me as we ignite our curiosity and natural wonder, explore our yards and communities, and improve our local pollinator and wildlife habitat. Learn more or subscribe to my email list at www.backyardecology.net.