Stems: stout, rigid. Leaves: ovate, oblong, acute, serrate, veiny. Flowers: in numerous corymbosely cymose heads; involucre broadly campanulate, its bracts in several series; rays in a single series, not very numerous; disk-flowers tubular, perfect.
In August or September the mountain meadows and forests teem with many of these flowers, for then "Everywhere the purple asters nod, And bend, and wave, and flit."
They are the pretty heralds of Autumn, some of them tall, handsome, and stately, like the Large Purple Aster; some quite small, some big and branching, and others again straight and slender, but all tending to glorify the earth. The Aster conspicinis is the largest and handsomest of all its tribe, as its name suggests. It is very branching and has large leaves that are sharply toothed; while the involucre, or green cup which holds the flower, is curiously formed by several series of tiny narrow-pointed bracts, which stand out horizontally and give it a fringed appearance. The rays of this Aster are a lovely bright purple, and the disk-flowers in the centre are golden yellow.
Aster Fremonti, or Fremont's Aster, is a very common species. It also has purple rays, but rather brownish-yellow disk-flowers. All the Asters consist of numerous, tiny, tubular disk-flowers crowded together in a close.cluster and surrounded by the rays, or ray-flowers, which are strap-shaped, the whole being held together in a green cup, or involucre, of bracts. The leaves of Fremont's Aster are quite smooth at the edges.
The Asters are much-prized flowers, because they come to us at a season when the whole world is walking in russet garb along a penitential pathway that leads to winter's prison. Only the Golden-rods and Asters are left to linger through the soft gray days of late autumn, and what could be more beautiful than these blossoms of purple and gold, which, where the sun strikes light with his ruddy lances, bejewel the burnished lustre of bare branches and brown fallen leaves?
Aster frondeus, or Leafy-bracted Aster, is a stout-stemmed erect species, with violet, purple, or white rays. It has many flowers growing on short stalks, which spring out at intervals from the axils of the clasping smooth-edged leaves, all the way up the long main stems; and the bracts of the green involucre are very conspicuous, especially the outer and lower series, which spread forth horizontally and are almost like tiny leaves. This Aster usually grows near water.
Aster Engelmanni, or Engelmann's Aster, is a rather tall robust plant, of coarse appearance, with clusters of purple flowers, each one growing on its own individual axillary stalk, or else in a terminal cyme.
A common English name for Asters is Michaelmas Daisies, because they bloom at the feast of Saint Michael, according to "The calendar, Faithful through a thousand years Of the painted race of flowers, Exact to days, exact to hours."
Aster Lindleyanns, or Lindley's Aster, has tall stout stems branched above, thick glabrous leaves, the lower ones cordate at the base, sharply serrate and acute, and the upper ones ovate, nearly entire and sessile. The violet-blue flowers are not numerous, and the ten to twenty rays are a quarter to half an inch long.
Aster Iaevis, or Smooth Aster, has thick, usually entire, rough-margined leaves, the upper ones sessile and strongly cordate-clasping, the basal and lower ones gradually narrowed into winged petioles. The purple-blue flower heads are numerous, the involucre being campanulate, its bracts rigid acute appressed and imbricated in several series. The rays number fifteen to thirty.
Aster Richardsonii, or Richardson's Aster, is hairy and much branched from the base. The leaves are oblong spatu-late and serrate. The violet-purple flower heads are solitary, terminating the branches, and the involucre is broadly campanulate, the bracts being narrowly lanceolate with acute loose herbaceous tips.
Aster major, or Great Northern Aster, has tall steins which are leafy to the summit and very hairy. The leaves are lanceolate, partly clasping by a narrowed base, acuminate at the apex, sharply serrate, dark green above and rather paler beneath. The purple flower heads are usually solitary at the ends of short branches. The rays number thirty to forty-five.
Aster ciliomarginatus, or Hairy-margined Aster, has tall round stems tinged with red. The basal leaves are smooth with hairy-fringed margins, serrate, and tapering into wing-margined petioles, the upper leaves are oblong and sessile. The light blue flower heads are few in an open panicle, and the linear involucral bracts are fringed with hairs on the margins.
Aster sibiricus, or Violet Aster, has broadly lanceolate leaves, and solitary violet flowers terminating the corymbi-form branches. The involucre is short, its bracts narrowly lanceolate with acute loose herbaceous tips.