Our October native plant, the Georgia aster, Symphyotrichum georgianum, is a threatened perennial that grows in the prairies of the Southeast and on the edges of woodlands where there is enough sun to mimic a prairie environment. Prairies aren’t commonly associated with the Georgia landscape, but they make up an important part of our ecosystems. There are many native species of plants found in prairies, but these habitats have been vastly reduced due to highway construction, herbicides, development and suppression of natural fires.
Up until the 1900s the Georgia aster was found in nearly 40 Georgia counties, but since then its population has dwindled dramatically as its habitat has been reduced.
It is no longer found in Florida. Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina have fewer than 15 populations in each.
The Georgia aster, the signature plant of the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies, is distinguished by its dark purple ray flower surrounding a center disk of small white flowers which turn lavender once pollinated. It grows well in acidic soil that can range from sand to heavy clay and can even compete for resources, unless it loses its necessary sunshine. Georgia aster are pollinated by bees collecting nectar.
Most of the remaining populations are adjacent to roads, railroads, utility rights of way and other openings where land management mimics natural prairies. We are working with property owners to prevent impact to the native plant populations and reintroducing the plant into newly restored prairie lands across the state. Find out what you can do to help the Georgia aster and all of Georgia’s native plants.