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FutureStarrSmooth Blue Aster
With such a fascinating name, the impeccably-curated Portland, Oregon-based company was a no-brainer for me. In fact, when I first discovered their line of contemporary textile clothing made by women in developing communities, I had to have it.The leaves on Smooth Blue Aster are indeed smooth to the touch. The similar-looking Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense) has rough leaves, as do many other Asters. The tough stem often takes on a shade of blue also and will allow Smooth Blue Aster to stand tall during its long late summer to mid fall bloom. A non-aggressive rhizomatous root system allows the plant to spread slowly. In a garden setting, Smooth Blue Aster will persist for many years.
The preference is full to partial sun, mesic conditions, and soil containing loam, clay-loam, sandy loam, or some rocky material. This plant usually remains erect while in bloom and it is able to tolerate hot dry weather if it is not too prolonged. The foliage is occasional marred by powdery mildew and other foliar diseases to some extent; good air circulation reduces this vulnerability. Smooth Blue Aster is easy to cultivate in gardens if taller and more aggressive plants are kept away from it.Smooth Blue Aster is similar to Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense) and grows in a similar habitat, blooming at about the same time. The leaves of Sky Blue Aster are arrowhead shaped near the base and do not clasp the stem, its flowers are generally smaller, less than 1 inch across, and its phyllaries are appressed with a small, green, diamond-shaped tip.
There are as many as 4 varieties of S. laeve, var. concinnum and var. purpuratum are more southern and/or eastern species, with var. laeve and var. geyeri reported as present in Minnesota. The DNR lists var. geyeri as “historical” and there are no records of it in the Bell Herbarium. Flora of North America notes that the difference between it and var. laeve is essentially only the shape of the dark green part of the phyllaries and they might be considered synonyms. Taxonomists can hash that one out.Smooth Aster is a hardy plant that defies frost and keeps on blooming, often into November, with a profusion of lavender-blue, star-like flowers. The yellow flower-center turns reddish, later in the season. The leaves are smooth to the touch which makes this species different from most asters. Sky Blue Aster is similar looking, but has rough leaves. Typically about three feet tall with arching branches, the tough stem allows it to say upright throughout summer and fall. This aster can have a long life if it's not over-crowed by other more aggressive plants. Attractive to butterflies seeking nectar in the fall, it's also a host for the Pearl Crescent butterfly. (Source: www.prairienursery.com)