Symphyotrichum puniceum

A violet aster with a reddish hairy stem, an inhabitant of the wetlands

Symphyotrichum puniceum purplestem aster

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA Synonyms:   Aster puniceus

This common perennial aster is noted for its purplish stem covered with bristly white hairs. This aster is variable though, and can have slightly pubescent or glabrous stem. New growth branches may be misleading since they are sometimes green. The leaves are rough and usually lightly toothed.  At their base they clasp the stem but do not surround it.  The leaves are up to ten inches long and lance-shaped.  They may vary somewhat from plant to plant.  A line of white hairs runs down the middle vein on the underside of the leaves. The stem may zigzag a bit and may be mistaken for the crooked-stemmed aster (S. prenanthoides).  It may also be confused wit the late purple aster but the latter has shorter, more rounded and consistently toothless leaves. 

The composite flowers of this species have numerous (30-60) light violet or violet ray florets (petals) and numerous creamy white or yellow disk florets.  The latter turn purple as they age.  The flower heads are 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter. The blooming period of this species is from August to late October.  Because of the color of the flowers it is sometimes also mistaken for the New England aster (S. novae-angliae), but the latter usually has more ray florets and a deeper purple/blue coloration.  It also lacks the purple stem.

The purplestem aster tends to be a wetland plant, growing in swamps and wet thickets and along shorelines.  It prefers an area where it can get a fair amount of sunlight.  It is found in Canada and eastern United States except Florida, but is found mostly in the mountains in the South. It is found throughout Pennsylvania.  It is also called the red-stemmed aster, the swamp aster or the glossy-leaved aster.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Grows in swamps, wetlands, wetland margins, shores of streams.

Present throughout the state.

Wetland codes

Flowers from late August to October.

Flowers  branching clusters of stalked flowerheads (few to many) at the top of stem and arising from upper leaf axils.  Involucral bracts narrow, loose and spreading; flower rays are purple.

Leaves  simple, alternate, with scabrous edges, dark green, with prominent center vein and pointy at the tip.  Are stalkless and have a pair of lobes that clasp the stem.  The basal  leaves are lance-shaped and have winged sheathing stalks.  Both basal and lower stem leaves wither away by flowering time.  Leaves are bristly and have short hairs along the central vein on the underside.

Stems  single or multiple from a woody rootstock, mostly erect; purplish in color and pubescent.

Fruit  dry seed with a tuft of white hair that gets carried off by the wind.

S-rank:  No rank
G-rank:  G5 (Secure)

Symphyotrichum puniceum purplestem aster

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA
Synonyms:   Aster puniceus
Symphyotrichum puniceum gallery
Plant Life-Form
perennial forb
Common Names
purplestem aster swamp aster