Symphyotrichum sericeum (Silky Aster)

Plant Info
Also known as: Western Silver Aster
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry sandy or rocky soil; prairies, outcrops, open woods, dunes, barrens
Bloom season:August - October
Plant height:1 to 2 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Branching clusters of stalked flowers at the top of the stem and arising from upper leaf axils. The wiry branches are often erect or nearly so. Flowers are 1 to 1¼ inches across, 15 to 25 purple petals (ray flowers) and pale yellow center disk flowers that turn dull reddish brown with age.

[photo of bracts (phyllaries)] The bracts (phyllaries) surrounding the base of the flower are in 3 to 5 layers, densely covered in silky hairs, the outer phyllaries with spreading, broadly egg-shaped tips about ¼-inch long and the inner narrowly triangular to lance-linear with a sharply pointed tip. Flower stalks are up to 1¼ inch long, slender, densely covered in soft, appressed hairs, with a few to several leaf-like bracts below the flower.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of upper stem leaves] Leaves are generally oblong-elliptic, toothless, stalkless, blunt or pointed at the tip, and densely covered in long, fine hairs that give them a silky feel and silvery sheen, and is where the plant gets its common names. Leaves in the upper part of the plant are mostly ascending to erect, ½ to 1¼ inches long and up to ½ inch wide.

[photo of lower leaves] Basal and lower stem leaves are much longer and most wither away by flowering time. Stems are single or multiple from the base, wiry and delicate, hairless near the base, densely covered in fine appressed hairs in the upper plant, and may initially be green but are typically brown.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a brown seed with a tuft of light brown hair to carry it off in the wind. The seed head is ½ to ¾ inch across.


Silky Aster most closely resembles Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), which has rough leaves, narrow phyllaries, and a bright yellow center disk. Silky Aster starts emerging around May; it's characterized by a clump of narrow leaves densely covered in long, soft hairs.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Otter Tail County and in a private garden in Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: John - Near Newfolden, MN and at Old Mill State Park W of Newfolden
on: 2011-08-30 21:50:38

I have seen a number of Silky Asters. Old Mill State Park has large stands of Big Bluestem grass and there seem to be a lot of Silky Asters around those stands.

Posted by: Jordan Wilson - Saint Cloud - Sherburne County
on: 2023-09-05 12:25:31

This plant can reliably be found at Sand Prairie WMA along the prairie restoration trails.

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