Symphyotrichum urophyllum (Arrowleaf Aster)

Plant Info
Also known as: White Arrow-leaved Aster, Tail-leaved Aster
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry to average sandy or rocky soil; open woods, woodland edges, savanna, glades, grassy railroads, bluffs
Bloom season:August - October
Plant height:1 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Branching cluster of numerous, short-stalked, daisy-type flowers at the top of the plant and arising from upper leaf axils. The cluster is taller than wide with branches erect to ascending and often take on a cylindrical shape from the tightly packed flowers. Flowers are ½ to ¾ inch across with 8 to 15 petals (ray flowers) surrounding a pale yellow center disk that turns reddish with age. Ray color is typically white, occasionally pale blue.

[photo of bracts (phyllaries)] Surrounding the base of the flower are 4 to 6 layers of sharply pointed bracts (phyllaries), the outer awl-shaped, the inner lance-linear, pale green to whitish at the base with long, slender green to purplish tips that mostly flare out. Phyllaries are hairless except sometimes for minute hairs around the tip edge. Flower stalks are typically under ¾ inch long with a few, small, leaf-like bracts and may be sparsely hairy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of lower leaves] Leaves are thin, 1 to 4½ inches long, ½ to 2 inches wide, pointed at the tip, usually shallowly toothed around the edges, the upper surface smooth to sparsely hairy to rough textured, softly hairy on the underside especially along the midvein. Basal and lowest stem leaves are narrowly heart-shaped, on long stalks that are sometimes narrowly winged. Basal and the lowest stem leaves typically wither away by flowering time but may persist.

[photo of upper stem leaf with winged stalk] Leaves become less heart-shaped and more egg-shaped to lance-linear as they ascend the stem, with shorter, more broadly winged stalks. The uppermost leaves are often stalkless, may be toothless and are reduced to bracts in the flower clusters. Stems are single or multiple from the base, mostly erect, unbranched except in the flower clusters, typically smooth near the base and sparsely hairy in the upper plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

Fruit is a dry seed with a tuft of white hairs to carry it off in the wind.


The leaves of Arrowleaf Aster distinguish it from other asters with small, white flowers. While there are several other asters with heart-shaped leaves, the others have blue to violet flowers in more open panicles and broader phyllaries that are appressed, not flaring out.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Sucker Lake, Ramsey County, and Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve, Scott County. Other photos by Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jinny - Grand Rapids
on: 2017-07-18 20:17:46

Any tips for differentiating Symphyotrichum ciliolatum from Symphyiotrichum urophyllum without any flowers present?

Posted by: luciearl - Cass County
on: 2018-09-05 22:11:19

Grows in ditches and my property in Sept.

Posted by: gary - Carlton County
on: 2020-08-22 18:30:23

There are a few plants along the Munger Trail near Carlton and along another trail I think is called the River Trail near Scanlon. Today I found three plants on my property (also in Carlton County) that are almost ready to bloom.

Posted by: Mike - Bloomington
on: 2023-05-30 10:51:37

Leaves on young plants are hard for me to distinguish from creeping bellflower. Both have jagged edged, heart shaped, alternating basal leaves when young. I used to have a lot more of these asters around before I had an invasion of creeping bellflower from a neighboring lot and I think I accidentally pulled most of these by mistake. Any surefire ID suggestions for the very young plants?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-05-30 12:32:22

Mike, you might check the hairiness on the underside of leaves. Creeping bellflower is noted as sparsely short-hairy along the veins where the native aster should have longer soft hairs (pilose), be hairy on the surface and more densely hairy on the veins.

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