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Native Plants: New England Aster & Downy Gentian

Written by Joel Springsteen
    Tuesday, 09 October 2018
Native Plants: New England Aster & Downy Gentian

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-anglea) is one of the most common native asters and when covered in one inch diameter flowers, it's also one of the showiest. This member of the daisy/sunflower family grows in a variety of soil types and moisture levels and is well adapted to disturbed areas like roadsides and young prairie plantings where it can be a dominant species. 

This can be a very tall plant (4-6')and spreads like crazy from seed. The late blooms of asters are important for sustaining migrating butterflies and insects preparing to over winter and the seeds are eaten by birds during winter-especially if you leave your garden standing and wait til mid to late spring to cut down perennials.


Downy gentian Gentiana puberlenta

Downy gentian (Gentiana puberlenta)- another exquisite native wildflower that has been all but lost from the landscape. This one is a very small plant, usually only 6-12 inches tall. Downy gentian needs dry sandy soil where other tall plants can't grow easily and overpower it. It does like to grow tucked among shorter prairie grasses like prairie dropseed. This is another very challenging to grow species and should just be enjoyed in its wild habitat. The fact that we cant easily replicate the conditions plants like this need and therefore can't successfully cultivate them is just one reason it's important to protect their remaining habitat from development.

Joel Springsteen

Joel Springsteen

Joel was born and raised in Papua New Guinea. While in middle school, a project to plant a backyard “rainforest" evolved into a full-blown obsession with habitat restoration. Soon after reaching a peak height of 6ft 2in, Joel moved to Milwaukee. He was amazed to discover that most native plants are conspicuously absent from the city and suburbs. He loves restoring native plant/animal communities because it combines history, ecology, and other disciplines. Joel has a degree in linguistics and is completing a second degree in biology. He has been a land steward at the Center since 2006.

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