Starwort, Michaelmas Daisy, aster–no matter what you call it, this gorgeous star-shaped flower is a staple of gardens all over the world.
But why is this flower so famous, and where did it even come from? If you look into the fascinating history of the aster, you may be surprised just how much this little flower appears in the folklore and culture of countries all over the world.
From ancient mythology to French graveyards, the aster truly has been everywhere. Here’s everything you need to know about its history and how you can grow your own.
A Star is Born
Legend has it that one night, Greek Goddess Astrea got upset that she couldn’t see many stars in the sky, so she decided to make her own. As each of her tears hit the ground, a star-shaped aster flower grew to fill her desire for more stars in the sky. Other cultures claim that Virgo scattered stardust over the earth and, out of the dust, aster flowers were born.
Regardless of how they really came to be, the connection to stars continued to be the hallmark feature of this iconic plant. In the 18th century, for example, asters were scattered over the graves of French soldiers to symbolize their stardom and brightness in battle. In fact, the word “aster” itself is actually the Latin word for star!
Still in Style
Today, the aster is still widely known and important in many diverse ways. It is the official flower of 20th wedding anniversaries, making it a rather romantic flower, and many spiritualists still consider the aster to have evil-repelling properties. Medically, aster roots are mainly used in Chinese traditional medicine and acupuncture, where the roots are ground up and given to patients suffering from symptoms of cough and cold. Western medicine has moved away from the aster in recent years, but this Eastern tradition still continues. If you go to any Chinese market in any major city today, chances are you’ll find someone selling aster root.
The different varieties of asters also carry their own significance, with each color reflecting a different emotion. Purple asters are the most common, symbolizing wisdom, while pink stands for love and white stands for innocence. In total, there are over 600 different types of aster, making it one of the most diverse varieties of plants in the world.
Happily Ever Aster
Although it is generally more common to purchase potted aster than to grow your own, planting aster is relatively simple. They do well with sunlight but not as well with heat, preferring cool, moist summers in more temperate regions. If you live somewhere warmer, it is recommended that you plant away from direct sunlight. New England asters and New York asters are both great options for beginners, since they are easy to find and come in a wide array of colors. If you’re looking for a bushier, more low-to-ground plant, try Blue Wood aster or Heath aster respectively.
Once planted, asters require a large amount of water and soil to stay healthy. Many gardeners have found success covering plants in a thin layer of compost each year; even though asters are perennials, they still take some maintenance in order to stay healthy enough to come back. If you take good care of your plants, you’ll soon have a beautiful set of September birth flowers that you can give to your lover, burn to ward off serpents, or make your own medicine.
Over the years, the cultural uses of aster have changed greatly, but one thing has remained the same–its beauty. If properly planted and cared for, this star-shaped flower can become the star of your garden with its diverse colors, gorgeous shape, and endless applications.