Symphyotrichum shortii (Short's Aster)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, shade; average to dry, often rocky soil; oak forest, forest edges and slopes
Bloom season:September - 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, stalked, daisy-type flowers at the top of the plant and arising from upper leaf axils. Flowers are ¾ to 1 inch across with 10 to 20 petals (ray flowers) surrounding a yellow center disk that turns reddish with age. Ray color ranges from pale blue to bright blue-violet, rarely pink or white.

[photo of bracts (phyllaries)] Surrounding the base of the flower are 4 or 5 layers of sharply pointed bracts (phyllaries), light green down the center, greenish white along the sides and a dark green, generally diamond shaped tip. Bracts are covered in stiff, white appressed hairs. Flowering branches are long, widely spreading or arching, with a few to many small, leaf-like bracts that are appressed to spreading and variously covered in stiff hairs.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are thin, 2 to 6 inches long, 1 to 2 inches wide, toothless or with a few shallow teeth, pointed at the tip, on hairy stalks that may be narrowly winged. Most leaves are narrowly heart-shaped, becoming more rounded at the base in the upper plant. Basal and lower stem leaves are broadest, long-stalked and typically wither away by flowering time.

[photo of hairs on leaf underside] The upper surface is smooth except for a few hairs along the midvein, the lower surface and midvein are sparsely to moderately covered in spreading hairs. Stems are single or multiple from the base, ascending to erect, hairless towards the base, becoming densely hairy in the upper plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

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


Relatively rare in Minnesota, we are at the northwest tip of this species' range and it is only found in the wild in 3 of our southeast counties, though it may be introduced elsewhere in restoration plantings. According to the DNR, Short's Aster was listed as a Threatened species in 1996 due to its rarity in the state (at the time) and threats from development, logging, grazing and invasive species. It was downgraded to Special Concern in 2013 after biological surveys located an additional 10 sites. It is distinguished from other blue-violet asters with heart-shaped leaves by the hairy phyllaries, densely short-hairy upper stem, and mostly toothless leaves that are smooth on the upper surface. Of the other blue-violet asters with heart-shaped leaves, Sky-blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense) may be most similar. It has hairless phyllaries, rough textured leaves and only those at the base of the plant are heart-shaped. Blue Wood Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium), Drummond's Aster (S. drummondii), Lindley's Aster (S. ciliolatum), and Big-leaf Aster (Eurybia macrophylla) all have distinctly toothed leaves that are proportionately wider. Arrowleaf Aster (S. urophyllum) also has heart-shaped leaves on the lower stem, but has smaller white flowers.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in a restored area at Westwood Hills Nature Center, Hennepin County, and in a private garden in Ramsey County.


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

Posted by: Justine Dobson - On Hwy 76 just north of Houston, MN
on: 2020-09-16 09:49:39

These flowers were growing out of the side of the bluff, along a two lane highway just north of Houston, MN. I haven't seen them anywhere else.

Posted by: Bruce Baer - Louisville Swamp - Minnestoa Valley Wildlife Refuge
on: 2021-09-23 14:11:12

The only example I found besides, Heath, Sky-blue, Blue Wood, Awl and Calico asters when walking around the area.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-09-23 19:21:09

Bruce, per the county distribution map (and the DNR) Short's aster isn't known to be naturally occurring in MN outside of the 3 counties in the southeast corner of the state. If you'd like confirmation on the ID, post some photos on the Minnesota Wildflowers Facebook page.

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