In her best-selling Braiding Sweetgrass, author and scientist Kimmerer devotes a chapter to the beauty of the classic meadow combo of asters and goldenrod. Appearing at a time when most other perennials have finished blooming, these eye-catching flowers are a valuable source of nectar for bees and butterflies–including migrating monarchs, who have begun the epic journey to their winter home in Mexico.
Asters are, of course, members of the Asteraceae family. The botanical name derives from the Greek word for ‘star’--a very apt description of their constellations of starry booms.With over 35 species native to PA, there’s a suitable aster for every habitat imaginable. At the SBG, you’ll find New England aster (Symphotrichum novae-angliae), aromatic aster (Symphotricum oblongifolium) and more.
Goldenrod (Solidago spp) is a blaze of fall color in meadows and along roadways. There are more than 30 species native to PA, and distinguishing between them can sometimes be a challenge, but all offer important resources for pollinators. But wait a minute, allergy sufferers might be saying–isn’t goldenrod contributing to my seasonal misery? Short answer–NO! Goldenrod has relatively large pollen grains that are dispersed by pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The real culprit is ragweed, which blooms at the same time, and has very tiny pollen grains that easily go airborne.
Whether you’re a migrating monarch, a busy bee, or a gardener, we can all agree that asters and goldenrod are a winning combination!
Photo: Lisa Schneider