Native plants provide beauty as well as food and shelter for wildlife. Native species are adapted to the Illinois climate. They require little or no watering and are resistant to drought, insects and most diseases. Because they are perennials, you can welcome their presence year after year.
calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum)
Photo © Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Calico aster grows in moist soils statewide. It reaches a height of one to three feet. The stems are light green or dark red-brown and have white hairs on them. Leaves grow alternately on the stem and become smaller from the bottom to the top of the stem. Leaf shape varies. Flower heads develop in clusters on the upper stem tips and some of the side stem tips. Blooming occurs from August through October. Each flower head has 8-12 ray flowers around a center of disk flowers. The disk flowers are yellow initially but change to brown or purple-red. The ray flowers are white. The fruit is an achene, a simple dry fruit that does not open at maturity. The achenes have small tufts of white hairs. Many species of insects are attracted to the flowers. The seeds are eaten by songbirds and game birds in winter.
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These plant species are native to Illinois, and most of them are good sources of nectar and/or pollen for animals that act as pollinators. Some of them provide food for larval stages of pollinators, too, and many of them provide shelter throughout the year. They are readily available for purchase from plant nurseries. These species are best for locations that receive sunshine for most of the day throughout the growing season.
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Classification and taxonomy are based on Mohlenbrock, Robert H. 2014. Vascular flora of Illinois: A field guide. Fourth edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 536 pp.