Climbing Aster

This week for Flora and Fauna Friday we have a wildflower with a mild identity crisis, Climbing Aster (Ampelaster carolinianus).

Climbing Aster is an aster through and through, with its simple, ovate leaves, stiff but narrow stems, and its golden composite flowers ringed in innumerable, pink-blushed-white petals that settle to pastel-magenta in the waning days of fall. Yet, its behavior au contraire to its nature. Climbing Aster creeps along and climbs upon its surroundings before, foothold assured, it heaps itself atop some pillar of its local botanical community. It lives its life not as a self-supporting shrub but as an unkempt, intruding vine. Climbing aster is partial to wetland margins, particularly pond sides, freshwater marshes, and seas island swamp shores. It is most abundantly in these locales when on the immediate coast of the South Carolina Lowcountry. When establishing, it often digs its heels in on the water’s edge before stretching itself out on top of the nearby greenery and grasses to soak up the unobstructed sun, as it dangles safely above the subverted quagmire below. Despite its mooching motivations, Climbing Aster is among the showiest of our asters. Its flowers are large for an aster, at up to an inch-and-a-half and numerous across the entire plant. It’s also one of our latest flowering native wildflowers, blooming well into November and providing a final feast for any straggling pollinators.

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