Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Flower Of The Month For September... The Aster


Wild Asters

by Sara Teasdale
"In the spring I asked the daisies
If his words were true,
And the clever, clear-eyed daisies
Always knew.
Now the fields are brown and barren,
Bitter autumn blows,
And of all the stupid Asters
Not one knows."


September's Flower, the Aster, is botanically named Aster, which literally means star. The association with stars, clearly references the flower’s shape. Asters are sometimes called the Michaelmas Daisy because their blooms coincide with the feast of St Michael.

Asters generally bloom in late Summer and early Autumn, and produce large clusters of delicate daisy-like flowers in white, purple, lavender, blue, pink or red. Alpine Aster blooms in May and June and usually bears one-and-one-half inch, violet flowers. The most popular variety is the New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae). You will often see native Aster varieties growing wild in almost any environment from the tropics to the coldest regions of the north, in habitats ranging from extremely arid deserts to bogs. Cultivated Aster plants range in height from a few inches to four feet.

The Aster is also known as Starwort. 'Wort' refers to the root and was used in ancient times to indicate a plant with healing properties. A number of Asters worldwide have been used historically as medicines and in a few cases as food. Asters belong to the Compositae family of which there are a great number in herbalism (ie. echinacea, boneset, etc) In Chinese medicine it is: A. tartaricus that is chiefly used and, other than in Chinese medicine, Asters are not used today.

Some of the legends and folklore of the Aster:

*When humans began to become more and more corrupt, Astraea, the Greek Goddess of Innocence left earth to dwell in the heavens as the constellation Virgo. Eventually, even Zeus became tired of the corruptness of humanity and created a flood to cover the entire earth except for the top of Mt Parnassus. Two humans, Deucalian and Pyrrha survived the flood on top of Parnassus. However, after the flood receded they wandered the earth lost and alone. Astraea took pity on them and created starlight to guide them. As she wept from pity, her tears landed on earth and formed the star-like flower, the aster.

*Asters symbolize love, daintiness, and affection.

*Astrologers regard it as an herb of Venus. It is used in love divinations in many countries.

*Asters were burned by the Greeks to drive away serpents. The Romans dressed up altars to the gods with wreaths of aster blossoms.

*The Chippewa Indians smoked the dried, powdered root of an aster species to attract game.

*In some Native American tribes, asters are associated with Bear, the most powerful of all mystical beings. According to some legends, Bear gave mankind a particularly powerful medicine, the aster root. It is named for Bear - Bear Root or Bear Medicine - and is regarded as being the next best thing to a panacea.

*In China, according to the Feng Su Chi, the people of Li lived well past the 100 years because the water they drank was flavored by the asters growing up in the surrounding hills.


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