ASTER , the name of a genus of plants, given from the fact of the flowers having a radiated or star-like appearance (see below). The Greek word also provides many derivatives: e.g. asterism , a constellation (q.v.); asteroid , an alternative name for planetoids or minor planets (see Planet).
The genus of composite plants named aster (natural order Compositae) is found largely in North America, and scattered sparingly over Asia, Europe and South America. They are usually herbaceous perennials; their flowers arranged in numerous heads (capitula) recall those of the daisy, whence they are popularly known in England as Michaelmas daisies, since many are in bloom about that time. They are valuable plants in a garden, the various species flowering from late summer right on to November or December. The only British species is Aster Tripolium, found abundantly in saline marshes near the sea. One of the species, Aster alpinus, grows at a considerable height on the mountains of Europe. Some of them, such as Aster spectabilis of North America, are very showy. They are mostly easy to cultivate in ordinary garden soil, and are readily propagated by dividing the roots in early spring. The following are some of the better known forms: - A. alpinus, barely 1 ft. high, and A. Amellus, 1 ft., with its var. bessarabicus, have broadish blunt leaves and large starry bluish flowers; A. longifolius var. formosus, 2 ft., bright rosy lilac; A. acris, 2 to 3 ft., with blue flowers in August; A. ericoides, 3 ft., with heath-like leaves and masses of small white flowers; A. puniceus, 4 to 6 ft., blue or rosy-lilac; A. turbinellus, 2 to 3 ft., mauve-coloured, are showy border plants; and A. Novae-Angliae, 5 to 6 ft., rosy-violet; A. Novi-Belgii, 3 to 6 ft., pale blue; A. laevis, 2 to 6 ft., blue-lilac; and A. grandiflorus, 3 ft., violet, are especially useful from their late-flowering habit.
The China aster (Callistephus chinensis) is also a member of the order Compositae. It is a hardy annual, a native of China, which by cultivation has yielded a great variety of forms. Some of the best for ornamental gardening are the chrysanthemum-flowered, the paeony-flowered, the crown or cockade, the comet, and the globe-quilled. Crown asters have a white centre, and dark crimson or purple circumference, and are very beautiful. The colours range from white and blush through pink and rose to crimson, and from lilac through blue to purple, in various shades. They should be sown early in March in pans, in a gentle heat, the young plants being quickly transferred to a cool pit, and there pricked out in rich soil as soon as large enough, and eventually planted out in the garden in May or June, in soil which has been well worked and copiously manured, where they grow from 8 to 18 in. high, and flower towards the end of summer. They also make handsome pot plants for the conservatory.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)