These delicate-looking, daisylike flowers provide a casual, wildflower charm to floral designs.

do you know my name?
Many species of flowers formerly classified in the Aster genus recently have been reclassified into theSymphyotrichum (sim-fy-oh-TRY-kum) genus, in the hugeAsteraceae/Compositae family. Because of recent advances in genetic research, scientists are now able to classify plants more accurately; therefore, the botanical names for many of the former Asters, and other flowers as well, have been changed.

the most common cuts.
Two species of Symphyotrichum that are widely grown as cut flowers are:

S. ericoides (er-i-KOY-deez), the common name of which is “heath aster.” A popular variety of these flowers is ‘Monte Cassino’ (named after a monastery in Cassino, Italy, founded circa A.D. 530 by St. Benedict); therefore, many retail and wholesale florists refer to these flowers as ‘Monte Cassino’ asters, rather than heath asters, regardless of their actual variety.

S. novi-belgii (NO-vee BEL-jee-eye), known commonly as “New York aster.” Another common name is Michaelmas (MIK-el-mus) daisy, in honor of the archangel Michael.

relatively speaking.
As members of the Asteraceae/Compositae family, heath asters and New York asters count chrysanthemums, sunflowers, Gerberas, Dahlias, Zinnias, marigolds, bachelor’s buttons and black-eyed Susans among their 950 or so relatives.

born in the U.S.A.
These flowers are native to the United States, primarily the eastern coastal states, from Maine to Georgia. Heath asters (S. ericoides) also grow indigenously in the Midwest, from Minnesota and South Dakota south to Texas and New Mexico.

seeing stars.
Both heath asters and New York asters have clusters of small daisylike, or starlike, flowers. Stems are branching, have tiny leaves (the stiff hairs on which can be irritating to skin), and range in length from 24 to 36 inches.

color schemes.
Heath asters are available primarily in white, with yellow or yellow-green centers. New York asters are available in hues ranging from pink and red-violet to lavender, purple and blue-violet, with yellow or yellow-green centers.

always in season.
Heath asters and New York asters are available year-round from both domestic and foreign growers.

smart buying.
Purchase these flowers in a more open stage than a bud stage. Examine bunches closely for yellowing leaves, which can be an indication of improper storage and/or growing conditions.

outside the box.
Immediately upon receipt of these flowers in your shop, remove the bunches from the shipping boxes, and check the flower quality. Next, remove all stem bindings as well as any leaves that would be under water in the storage containers.

get them ready to drink.
Recut the stem ends on an angle with a sharp knife or pruner, removing at least 1 inch of stem, to open stems for water uptake. Immediately after recutting, dip or place the stem ends into a hydration solution, to improve water uptake. Then place them into clean, disinfected containers partially filled with lukewarm (100 F to 110 F), properly proportioned flower-food solution.

cool and conditioned.
Refrigerate these flowers at 33 F to 38 F, and allow them to hydrate for at least two hours before selling them or designing with them. Some varieties reportedly prefer storage temperatures as high as 45 F.

facts of life.
With proper care, heath asters can last from eight to 12 days. New York asters have a slightly shorter vase life of five to 10 days. When held too long, some varieties exhibit yellowing or blackening leaves.

gas is not an issue.
Asters have little or no sensitivity to ethylene.

foreign language.
In Latin, aster means “star,” an allusion to the form of these flowers. The specific epithet name ericoides means “resembling heath (Erica),” while novi-belgii means “of New York.”