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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Golden Aster (Chrysopsis villosa)


From about now through early September, golden aster may be observed in bloom. The species ranges from Minnesota to Saskatchewan south to Texas and Arizona, at elevations up to 10,000 ft.

Golden aster has dozens of bright yellow flower heads about three-fourths of an inch wide. The flower heads form at the tips of short branches at the top of the plant. Plants are very leafy and grayish, being covered with short white hairs. In our area, golden aster stands about a foot tall and has a bushy appearance because the outermost branches curved outward. The long taproot of this perennial penetrates deep underground. Fruits are achenes equipped with both bristles and scales.

Look for golden aster in dry sandy or gravelly soils in sparsely vegetated areas at the tops of the prairie hills. The plant is poor forage for livestock so it may be found in heavily grazed areas.

Chrysopsis is a genus in the sunflower family (Asteraceae). This family contains over 15,000 species and is one of the largest plant families in the world and the largest in North Dakota. The family is characterized by the composite arrangement of many flowers into single heads. The heads of plants like sunflower are often erroneously thought of as single flowers by laypersons. Aster means "star" in Greek, in reference to the radiate arrangement of the flowers in the heads. The generic name Chrysopsis is derived from Greek words meaning "golden appearance." The specific name villosa means "shaggy" in botanical Latin. Golden aster was described by the German botanist Frederick Pursh in the early 1800's. Pursh was the first to publish upon the many plants collected by Lewis and Clark.


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Menlo Park, CA [caww55]