Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wavyleaf aster - Symphyotrichum undulatum

Wavyleaf aster (Symphyotrichum undulatum) is one of 27 species in this genus native to Florida. It is vouchered from most counties in north and central Florida, south to a line at the southern border of Polk and Hillsborough Counties. I suspect it might be present in a great many other counties in this region, but I think it largely goes unnoticed. There are no photos, for example, on the ISB website directed by the University of South Florida and it is not included in any of the many Florida wildflower books I own - and I have a great many of them. This is a widely distributed wildflower elsewhere in North America, being recorded in nearly every state east of the Mississippi River and in Quebec and Ontario north of the U.S. border.
I have only recently acquired this species for my landscape and therefore have very little firsthand experience with it. The photo above was taken of my plant that still resides in a pot. I hope to collect seed from it and use it in various locations around my landscape. Until then, I mostly have information from other sources, in other states. The reliable site maintained by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (LBJWC) states that it occurs in dry woods, thickets, and clearings. Its common name comes from its clasping somewhat heart-shaped lower leaves that have a wavy margin. A stiff flower stalk emerges from these basal leaves by summer and eventually stands several feet tall.
Like many asters in this genus, it blooms in the fall and it produces a great many flowers. Each is about 1/2 inch across. My potted plant began flowering in very late October and it is still in bloom now, mid-November. My plant has light lavender ray petals that surround a yellow disk, but the LBJWC states that the flower color is variable and that the ray petals can vary from nearly white to a rich lavender.
Asters of this genus serve as the larval host for pearl crescent butterflies and they are remarkable magnets for pollinating insects of all types. I hope to be able to add this seemingly versatile aster to my landscape and my nursery by next spring. If you live outside of Florida, I suspect that there are native plant nurseries that offer it or its seeds. We are a bit behind here in propagating Symphyotrichum asters commercially.

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