Purple aster flowers

Aster Flowers

The flowers of the Aster family--at least in the Northern Hemisphere--dominate the autumn months of September and October. The fields and roadsides are filled with bright yellow goldenrod, black-eyed Susans, paintbrush, and numerous un-named white and purple asters, while gardens are still blazing with the bright colors of daisies, purple coneflowers, coreopsis, chrysanthemums, and marigold flowers.

The taxonomy or classification of plants is interesting. All plants are identified by their flower parts and not by leaf shape, shape of the flower, plant height, habit, fruits, or some other easily identifiable characteristics. Therefore plant taxonomy is a quite specialized field.

Some plants that appear to be totally unrelated are in fact related-simply based on taxonomy, pineapples and Spanish moss or poison ivy and cashews for example. No one would ever think the grass that grows on your lawn is related to bamboo, but it is. They are both members of the Grass family.

Flowers in the Aster family have lots of petals or rays surrounding a round center about the size of a small coin such as a dime. The daisy is a typical example. The leaves vary tremendously. Some are entire or toothed, some are pinnate, and some leaves form a basal rosette instead of being attached to the stem as most plants are. The Aster family is so large that it contains several "tribes" or subgroups as well.

In North America, many aster flowers that bloom in the fall prefer open fields, marshy areas, or waste areas like the edges of paths or along country roads. That's because despite their diversity, the one thing that most of them have in common is a preference for full sun.

Enjoy this final burst of color while you can because the fields will soon be covered by snow until spring arrives next year.

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