New England Aster
Improvement status: Wild
Seeds per packet: ~150
Life cycle: Perennial
New England Aster is a gorgeous native perennial with vivid little purple daisyesque flowers produced in profusion. As a rare fall-blooming flower, it is a critical food plant for bees and other nectar-eating insects at a time when little else is in bloom. In some parts of eastern North America, it fills fields and meadows every fall, but it is becoming less common as cow-pastures on abandoned farms turn into forests. It does not do well in shade.
According to Wikipedia, it has a long history of medicinal use by indigenous people: "The Cherokee use a poultice of the roots for pain, an infusion of the roots for diarrhea, and sniff the ooze from the roots for catarrh. They also take an infusion of the plant for fever. The Chippewa smoke the roots in pipes to attract game. The Iroquois use a decoction of the plant for weak skin, a decoction of the roots and leaves for fevers, the plant as a "love medicine", and an infusion of whole plant and rhizomes from another plant to treat mothers with intestinal fevers. The Meskwaki smudge the plant and use it to revive unconscious people,] and the Prairie Potawatomi use it as a fumigating reviver."
GROWING TIPS: Seeds should be sown in fall or winter or artificially cold stratified for 60+ days before sowing. Seeds should be surface sown, as they are quite small. Starting in pots is probably preferable due to small seed size.
Grows easily in sun on most soils. Tolerates part shade, drought and weed competition. While a very pretty wildflower with late season blooms, potentially a bit rambunctious for a flower garden. Ideal for a meadow or ditch planting.