Yesterday, in the afternoon before the showers, it was warm and humid with the sun showing through on occasion. It seemed as if all the insect world knew that soon cool weather would be here and the days of plenty would be past. So all were busy loading up as if it were their last chance.
Wasps, caterpillars, skippers,solitary native bees and even a few honey bees covered the many flowers. It seems New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) has done well in the heat and plentiful rain of this years late summer. Tall plants full of small flowers whose purple rays fan out to surround a delectable creamy yellow center. Come one, come all there is plenty for everyone.
All this abundance started with a single seedhead winter sown three years ago as an experiment. Wanting to start with plants known to grow easily from seed I could then judge any failure or success on the method itself. Asters can adapt to fluctuations in rain and soil nutrients by staying small to conserve or growing enormous when circumstance is in favor.
Most years,like the yellow coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata) that bloom earlier, aster is kept low and caused to branch out by foraging rabbits. Preferring the young tender shoots, as the summer wears on the rabbits move to other tastier tidbits. This always leaves plenty of time for the aster to grow tall enough to produce an abundance of flower and seed. After the fall insect frenzy finches and sparrows like to dine on the seeds. So overall this New England Aster supplies an amazing amount of food to a diverse crowd in the wildlife habitat.