Symphyotrichum ciliatum (Rayless Aster)

Plant Info
Also known as: Rayless Alkali Aster, Short-rayed Aster
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:annual
Origin:Western US
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist; brackish soils, pond edges, prairies, ditches, railroads, salted roadsides
Bloom season:August - October
Plant height:6 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
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 Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Branching clusters of stalked flowers at the top of the plant. Flowers are petal-less (rayless), appearing perpetually budding, about 1/3 inch tall, typically a creamy white, sometimes pinkish. The numerous bracts (phyllaries) surrounding the flower are in 3 or 4 layers, hairless, mostly linear with sharply pointed tips, the outer layers widely spreading, the inner ascending to nearly erect. Flower stalks are hairless and up to 1/3 inch long. Flowering branches are ascending or may be prostrate but rising at the tips (decumbent).

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are mostly linear, 1 to 3 inches long, less than ¼ inch wide, hairless, mostly toothless but sometimes with minute teeth, and stalkless. Basal leaves are stalked and more spatula shaped but wither away by flowering time, along with the lower stem leaves. Stems are erect to ascending and hairless.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dry, hairy seed with a tuft of dull white to pinkish hair to carry it off in the wind.


Rayless Aster isn't considered native in Minnesota, though it is just to our west in the Dakotas, where it's found in salt marshes, waterways with fluctuating water levels, and waste grounds. While the leaves are very similar to both Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) and White Prairie Aster (S. falcatum), both are perennials, have rayed flowers, and are distinctly hairy where Rayless Aster is an annual, essentially hairless, and of course lacks rays on the flowers.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk in Breckenridge, Wilkin County, and in North Dakota.


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

Posted by: Charles - Many northern and western counties with other scattered stat
on: 2015-10-14 17:25:35

symphyotrichum ciliatum is native to minnesota

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-10-15 06:28:52

Charles, while we agree that this species could be considered (and may very well be) native, we followed the DNR's MNTaxa listing on this one, where it's designated "introduced" in MN. It's also considered adventive in Wisconsin and eastward. You could make a case to the MNTaxa folks for a change in status if you like.

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