General: Aster family (Asteraceae). White heath aster is a hardy perennial with an extensive root system of rhizomes and stolons. This bushy plant grows to be 0.5 to 1 m tall and can have a 30 cm spread. Leaves are narrow (1cm wide) and linear (7 cm long), resembling the leaves of heather. At the time of flowering, most leaves drop except for those directly beneath the flower head. The remaining leaves are reduced to bracts. One plant can produce up to 100 flower heads. Ray flowers are white-to-pink, center disc flowers are yellowish-to-purple. Seeds are achenes that have tufts of white bristles to help them blow away with the wind. Flowering takes place August through November.
White heath aster is difficult to distinguish from other white flowered species. A key characteristic is the blunt point of the bracts beneath the flower head. Other asters have sharply pointed bracts, bracts pressed against the inflorescence, or both.
Distribution: White heath aster is native to the United States. It occurs from Maine to southern Saskatchewan, south to Virginia, Texas, northern Mexico and southeast Arizona. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Habitat: White heath aster is found in dry-mesic prairies, open black oak or jack pine woods, sand dunes and savanna communities. It is weedy in disturbed areas like roadsides, railroads, sandy fields, gravel pits and quarries, and sometimes riverbanks and lakeshores.
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