I actually had to turn my heater to half-warm in the pickup last night coming home from work, and again this morning heading in to the Bluff. Winter is coming. Sigh. Pretty soon all the flowers will have passed on to setting seed, and the plants themselves will dry up and turn brown. I love the crisp air of the fall, the faint scent of woodsmoke on the breeze, the crunch of dry leaves and sticks underfoot, I truly do… but there’s a certain melancholy feel to it, too.
But meanwhile, there are still blooms to celebrate! And this morning was a perfect day to pause and take photos of them. They’re on the lower path, you see, right where all the mosquitoes hang out, just waiting for warm-blooded critters to happen by. Today, the chillier temperature kept the bugs at home. And the risen sun was at the perfect angle to light them up!
Say hello to to the Crooked Aster (Symphyotrichum prenanthoides). Of all the members of the aster family living up on the Bluff, I think these are my particular favorite. For one, they’re proper asters. For another, they’re quirky – I mean, just check out the name! Some are a vivid purple; others are a lovely pale lavender-to-white, a soft and subtle shade that, once you notice it, draws you in and invites you to find all the color variations the plants are showing off. The younger flowers have bright yellow centers; as they age, they shade more to red – which actually adds to the visual attraction!
They’re a perennial native that blooms August to October, and prefers partial shade and moist soil. You can find them from New York to Tennessee to Minnesota. But since they aren’t self-compatible – they have to be fertilized from a distant genetically distinct Crooked Aster, they rely on insects and they don’t compete very well with invasive species like Dame’s Rocket.