Skip to main content

Shale-barren Aster

From my office window, I can see these sprawling bush-like shale-barren asters, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium. These specimens are so luxuriant that I thought they might be something else, but apparently some nurseryman has worked cultivar magic and amped them up somehow. A few colleagues planted them last year in what we term our "butterfly garden".

So copious are the blossoms that, up close, it's like looking at a big violet-blue cloud. Unlike many cultivars, these asters apparently produce tons of nectar, as the plants were swarming with pollinators. I spent perhaps ten minutes stalking around the asters with my lens, and saw an incredible number of honey bees, in addition to the following buterflies: cabbage white, checkered skipper, common buckeye, monarch, pearl crescent, and Peck's skipper. Also a praying mantis, numerous syrphid flower flies, and a Virginia ctenucha moth.

Several monarchs dropped in and were working the flowers. Sustenance for their long flight to the high-elevation fir forests of Mexico.

I was pleased to see this checkered skipper busily nectaring. It's the first of this species I've seen on the property.

Feisty as always, three or four common buckeyes duked it out wth each other between turns at the flower bar.

Of course, wherever such abundance of tasty pollinators occur, there'll be predators such as this jumbo female Chinese mantis.

What's not to like? Asters are one of Nature's greatest expressions of fall. They enliven landscapes well after most other plants have gone to wither, and the little starlike flowers are nonpareil. There are several dozen native species and all look good, although shale-barren aster is hard to top in the looks department. Obviously they aren't just eye candy - animals galore flock to the flowers, and by having some asters in the corral, you'll be truly green.

NOTE: Thanks to Brian Parsons of the Holden Arboretum for setting me straight on aster ID. I never bothered to look at the details of these plants, being overly smitten with their pollinators, and foolishly assumed them to be New England asters, possibly the robust "purple dome" cultivar. Brian suggested checking the plants carefully, and a quick examination confirmed his suspicions. Thank you Brian!


treehugger_007 said…
Glad to help and would bet that your plants are either teh cultivar called 'Raydon's Favorite' or 'October Skies' - Brian

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…