Symphyotrichum puniceum (L.) Á. Löve & D. Löve — Overview

Purplestem Aster learn more about names for this taxon

Comprehensive Description

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This native perennial wildflower is 1½–6' tall, branching occasionally along the upper half of its length. The rather stout stems are light green to reddish purple (often the latter), terete to slightly grooved, and evenly covered with stiff spreading hairs. The alternate leaves are up to 6" long and 1¾" across, becoming gradually smaller along the upper half of each plant; they are narrowly lanceolate to lanceolate with poorly defined remote teeth along their margins. The leaves are yellowish green, medium green, or purple (sometimes the latter color during the fall); they are usually glabrous, except for some hairs along the central veins of their lower sides. Most leaves clasp the stems, although some of the smaller upper leaves are sessile. The central stem terminates in a panicle of flowerheads; some lateral stems may produce smaller panicles of flowerheads. The branches of each panicle are ascending and usually hairy. Along these branches, there are linear-lanceolate leafy bracts up to 1" long. The outer branches terminate in flowerheads about ¾–1¼" across, consisting of 30-50 ray florets and a similar number of central disk florets. The petal-like rays are usually lavender, pale blue-violet, or purple (less often white); they are widely spreading and very slender. The tubular disk florets are 5-lobed; they are initially yellow, but later become dull red. At the base of each flowerhead, there are several overlapping bracts that are linear in shape, green, and hairless; they are rather loosely assembled around the base of the flowerhead and slightly spreading. The blooming period occurs from late summer into the fall and lasts about 2 months. Both disk and ray florets are fertile. The florets are replaced by bullet-shaped achenes about 1.5 mm. long that have small tufts of white hair; they are distributed by the wind. The root system is fibrous and short-rhizomatous, sometimes forming a small caudex on older plants.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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