The Purple Aster, A Late Summer Early Fall Bloomer
The purple aster can add a splash of color to the garden when many of the annuals have begun to die off. The type of purple aster grown in home gardens will usually have strong stems and makes an excellent cut flower. "Usually" simply mean that there is more than one variety of the purple aster, including dwarf types.
Easy To Find, Or Maybe Not - The purple aster seeds more often than not come in a mixture of asters of varying colors. There is nothing wrong with that except if you are only interested in a purple aster, it may take some looking to find only that specific seed. Since asters are perennials, if you know of someone who grows purple asters, they might just divide one or more plants and give the divisions to you. Nurseries are also very apt to have purple asters as seedlings. Once you get them in your garden of course, they'll grow year after year. The dwarf varieties in particular make superb border plants and also are great as container plants, especially when mixed in with suitable companion plants.
Asters are members of a very large family of plants, Asteraceae, which includes everything from sunflowers, to yarrow, thistles, dandelions and daisies. Another name for some varieties of asters for that matter is the Michaelmas daisy. Many varieties of asters, particularly those grown in the wild, can be difficult to distinguish from the daisy. As is the case with domesticated or hybrid varieties, there are a number of varieties of wildflowers for which the name purple aster would be an accurate description.
Many of the purple asters growing as wildflowers are found in the eastern part of the United States, particularly in the Midwest and New England areas, including the New England aster and the Late Purple aster. In the mountain states and the western states pone will see many Engelman's asters in fields, meadows and openings in the forests. The Engelman's aster is also a purple aster.
Many Varied Shapes - Some asters have ray-like blossoms, most often with a center that is colored differently than the petals. Others have overlapping petals, and still others have petals that curve inward, giving the aster a good imitation of the chrysanthemum. One variety of aster, which includes a purple aster, closely resembles the Spider chrysanthemum, while pom pom asters take on the appearance of sea anemones. Given that there are in the neighborhood of 250 species of aster, it's not surprising to see such a variety in shape and color.
Shades Of Purple - In tracking down the purple aster, especially the wildflower varieties, one will find that it can be a difficult task indeed. In some instances the color of the petals will be a true purple. In other cases, in fact in most cases, a little violet creeps in. Violet asters and violet-purple asters are far more common than is the purple aster.
Purple Aster Roots - For what its worth, there is a Purple aster root, which is used in Chinese medicine for relieving coughs and congestion. It is not clear though what specific species of purple aster is used, only that it is the root of a member of the aster family, nor is it clear as to whether the species used is a native plant anywhere outside of China. Chewing on the roots of a purple aster growing in your garden to relive a cough would probably not be a good idea, at least not until checking to see if aster's roots are at all toxic. Being related to the sunflower and dandelion one would think there may be some health benefits to be found.