Plumose aster (Symphyotrichum plumosum) is endemic to Florida and found only in a small 8-county cluster of counties in central north Florida in and around Torreya State Park and the Apalachicola National Forest. In this region, it can be common in well-drained upland habitats. These photos were taken in a sandhill ridge at Torreya State Park.It is very close in appearance and growth form to the widely distributed eastern silver aster (S. concolor), but is clearly distinguished from it by its noticeably recurved phyllaries. These are easily seen in the photos above.
This perennial wildflower has narrow, linear basal leaves covered by silvery silky hairs. The leaves are appressed to the stems. Mature plants reach a height of 2-3 feet by fall. Numerous flower heads are formed at the tips of the stems. Individual flowers are present for at least a month until late fall. Each is composed of many cornflower blue ray petals surrounding a central disc that is white. All true asters are favored by a wide variety of pollinating insects and this is no exception.
Little seems to be written about plumose aster, perhaps because it has often been confused with eastern silver aster. It is a species I would dearly love to experiment with here at Hawthorn Hill and I hope to get seed to do that later this fall. I suspect that it has similar growing requirements to eastern silver aster which has done well here - well-drained soils and full sun. As I add more asters to my landscape/nursery each year, this species seems to deserve attention and to be made available to native plant gardeners.