During late summer and autumn you’ll see these colourful little flowers pop up: asters. Or, as I would like to call them, the daisies of autumn.
I never encountered these beauties whilst living in the Netherlands, but as soon as I moved to the UK I began to notice these flowers. Varying from deep purple to light pink, they really do stand out when nature is slowly but surely preparing for autumn.
They do look a bit like daisies. There are lots of species and varieties of asters out there, but the main two encountered asters are the New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and the New York Aster (S. novi-belgii). Asters are also known as Starworts, Michaelmas Daisies, or Frost Flowers.
I have some beautiful asters in the border in front of my house and it attracts lots of white butterflies and bees, “providing the pollinators with an important late-season supply of nectar” (source).
How to recognise Aster
Asters have starry-shaped flower heads that range in colour from white to blue to purple. The heart of the flower is bright yellow to orange. The leaves are divided into slips and are usually bright green, but they can be brownish too. The plant itself is a sturdy clump that can grow up to two metres! (source)
How to use Aster
Traditionally the aster root has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine, but the leaves and flowers of asters are edible, too. Either dried or fresh, the flowers and leaves of the Aster plant can be eaten. However, they are most commonly used nowadays in herbal teas, fresh in salads, or used as garnish. It has several health benefits and has traditionally been used in the treatment of weak skin, pain, fevers and diarrhea (source). However, it is slightly astringent on the tongue, which means it can leave your mouth feel dry.
Honestly, I haven’t picked any asters yet for personal use as I just enjoy watching the butterflies and bees land on the flowers. If you want to read more about picking wild flowers, read this article.