Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chapman's aster - Symphyotrichum chapmanii

Chapman's aster (Symphyotrichum chapmanii) is native to wet pine savannahs of the central and western Panhandle of Florida and a small portion of Alabama.  Isolated and disjunct populations are also reported from Alachua and St. Lucie Counties, so the species may be a bit more widely distributed than it would appear at first glance.  In all locations, it occurs on seasonally wet and open understories.
Chapman's aster would not win any awards as a foliage plant.  In fact, it is difficult to detect in the mixed-plant meadows it occurs in until it blooms.  Even then, it has narrow basal leaves that rarely exceed 12 inches in length and very few leaves up the stem.  What leaves are present are very reduced in size.  The stems may reach 2 feet tall by its October blooming season, but these are thin and the flower buds are widely spaced.
What makes this species so special, however, are its beautiful blooms.  Chapman's aster has flowers that are nearly 2 inches across; the thin rich-lavender petals may be more than 1/2 inch in length.  As such, individual plants are exceptional with their blooms standing above the surrounding grasses, nodding in the breeze.
To the best of my knowledge, Chapman's aster has never been grown commercially through the nursery trade and I have no experience with it in our gardens at Hawthorn Hill.  Hopefully, that will change soon as we have a flat of seed, collected this fall, that may turn into seedlings for us.  So, stay tuned if you are interested in learning more about this species and its potential in the home landscape.

1 comment:

  1. I love the outdoors, wish I had a sixteenth of your knowledge so I could enjoy more of what I'm seeing. I'm from South Louisiana...your Aster seems like a skinny version of the Jerusalem artichoke so popular in Cajun stews and gravies. Anyway, I learned a bit today and thank you.


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