Symphyotrichum puniceum (Purple-stemmed Aster)

Plant Info
Also known as: Red-stem Aster, Swamp Aster
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist soil; swamps, along shores, edges of woods, thickets
Bloom season:August - October
Plant height:1 to 7 feet

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Detailed Information

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

[photo of flowers] Flowers are in an open cluster on branching stems near the top of the plant. Individual flowers are from 1 to 1½ inches across with 30 to 60 slender, pale violet to blue-violet petals (ray flowers) and a yellow center disk that turns reddish purple with maturity. The bracts are very narrow and peel back away from the flower.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are dark green, to 10 inches long and 1¼ inch wide, tapering to a sharp point at the tip, with fine widely spaced teeth and a prominent center vein. Attachment is alternate; leaves clasp the main stem and those near the base of the plant may drop off by flowering time. The texture is bristly.

[photo of stem] There are short hairs along the central vein on the underside of the leaf. The main stem usually becomes reddish purple as the plant matures and is sparsely to densely covered in stiff white hairs.

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More photos

Photos taken at Vadnais/Snail Lake Regional Park, Shoreview, MN August-September 2008


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

Posted by: Kaye - Brooklyn Park
on: 2011-07-15 10:27:33

Actually, I am not sure if what I have/see is a purple-stemmed aster, but this seems to be the closest (when looking at the pictures you have uploaded). The leaves are the same, the color, too, and most everything about the flower depicts the purple-stemmed variety. So, I know that it's an aster. However, the petals are a lot more profuse, thinner. Does anyone know what kind of aster this would be?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-07-15 10:53:36

Kaye, there are similarities between purple-stemmed aster and New England aster. It typically has more numerous and narrower rays as you describe, and is also usually a deeper purple color. The leaves tend to be shorter and a bit more blunt at the tip than purple-stemmed. Maybe that was it.

Posted by: Bob - the Zim-Sax Bog, St. Louis County
on: 2012-08-21 20:56:21

I've come across an Aster that might be the same as what Kaye is referring to. The one I found has most of the same characteristics as listed for the Purple-stemmed Aster except this one has a green stem (though the plant may just be young), has 14 slender, pale violet to blue-violet petals (with one flower approaching 15), the bracts are flush and the leaves, while finely toothed, are only up to 4-5 inches long and 1-2 inches wide, maybe more. Each leaf is also positioned directly under a new branch. The other asters listed don't seem to have the finely toothed leaves combined with the dense, fine hair that gives a coarse feel.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-08-21 21:30:43

Bob, if the flowers only have 14 or so rays, it would not likely be purple-stemmed aster, which has at least 30, plus spreading bracts and longer, narrower leaves than you describe. If you have some images of your mystery aster post them on our Facebook page and we'll see if we can give you a confirmed ID.

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