The aster family of plants is a large, diverse plant family that includes species that range from common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), to narrowleaf mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia). However, when you hear the word aster, you generally think of purple fall-blooming asters that used to be classified in the genus Aster.
Up until the 1990s the genus Aster contained 600 species in Eurasia and North America. After morphological and molecular research all but one plant within the genus Aster in North America was reclassified as other related genera. There are now only 180 plants within the genus Aster, mostly confined to Eurasia. North American asters are now in genera such as Dieteria, Eucephalus, Eurybia, Heterotheca, Oreostemma, Sericocarpus, Symphyotrichum, etc. Although the name of the genera have changed, most common names still include the name aster, for example, Leafybract aster is now Symphyotrichum foliaceum.
Fall is the time to celebrate native asters!