Plant Study of Showy Aster


Plant Study of Showy Aster
Sunflower Family • Aster spectabilis


Introductory Note from the Flower Essence Society

Alpine AsterWe were very grateful to receive Jack Braunstein's plant study of the Showy Aster (Aster spectabilis). During the last ten years we have conducted research on a related species, Alpine Aster (Aster alpigenus, pictured on the right),which grows in the higher altitudes of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Jack's insights coincide with many of the qualities which we correlated with the Aster, providing a very helpful contribution to our research program.

The Aster is a member of the Composite family of plants, known for their well-defined physical structures and strong integrative features. The flowers are described as composite because hundreds of tiny ray and disk florets weave together with incredible geometric precision to create one unified field of flowers in each blossom of the plant. Thus many of the flower essences in the plant family have qualities of strength, immunity and integration, particularly how the core Self is able to express and stabilize itself. Examples include Sunflower, Echinacea, Arnica, Yarrow and Shasta Daisy.

Within the vast array of composites, the Aster is unique for its delicate lavender/purple color, suggesting a manner in which these core aspects of the Self are brought to a very high spiritual level of expression. The Aster flower essence appears to stimulate this higher spiritual consciousness, helping the individual "to sound their truth," as Jack noted. The Aster is named for its star-like physical form, and indeed, it seems as though this Star of Self comes to play in one's destiny more actively, helping the individual to awaken to and attract relationships and levels of understanding that might have previously been dormant. The Aster is one of the flower essences that seems particularly capable of stimulating the dream life, and the consciousness of the Self beyond physical form. Its is also for this reason, one of the important emerging flower essences that practitioners have found very helpful for the soul when in the process of dying. Society members can access more information on the Alpine Aster by logging on to the members' pages of this Web site.

The Showy Aster

Words and Illustrations
Jack Braunstein

This particular aster is growing near a creek that is stagnant due to the drought. It finds good neighbors with the golden rod, peppermint, St. John's wort and a type of thistle. I see all grow together on hillsides with sandy soil. All are presently in bloom, too.

At first I was drawn to the Showy Aster plant for its simplicity—its radial symmetrical petals around a centered yellow disk. It was not particularly spectacular except for its lavender colored petals. So its name "Showy" puzzled me until I looked closer at its characteristics:

Height — this one I'm observing is about 2' tall while others can be shorter, even less than a foot, some even only a few inches tall. Its smooth-feeling fuzzy stem is rounded but has three sides. This formation carries from its base to its extremely smooth tips.

Branches — the plant rises from the ground almost straight and erect, although it has a gentle curve, but then a foot higher, its branch shifts direction in a subtle zig-zag.

Leaves — these are a grass green color about 5" long near the base but less than 1/2" at the very top. The larger leaves are toothed 2" from the tip, the smaller ones are smoothed at the edges and flat.

Flowers — there's a strong contrast between the beautiful lavender petals surrounding a yellow disk, with the plant having about 50 clustered florets. The aster typically blooms in late August through October, often meeting the first frost. The flowers form toward the top, flowering at the tip of each branch, each one lasting for a day or two before fading. They tend to open horizontally in a receptive fashion. Its buds have a torch shape that lighten in color at the tip. (Fire!) The same plant displays buds, flowers at their peak, and faded flowers that have lost their brilliant yellow, turning to a pale brown-beige. The seeds are so tiny at the tips of the white stamen in the center of the flower.

This hardy plant thrives in open meadows. It also gravitates along the edges of ponds and creeks, where it can be more prolific. The soil doesn't need to be especially fertile but it does need some direct sun—it loves the sun! When its sun-shaped yellow-centered flowers are open, they conceal nothing, being completely receptive to the sun. The upper portion of the entire plant is shaggy overall and irregularly branched, very top heavy. Its refinement can be seen in its delicate, tiny leaves near the graceful buds and flowers. These characteristics indicate that most of its energy gravitates toward the sun, it appears to be more lofty than grounded.

Apparently it is unobtrusive as a plant until it flowers, and it has no strong apparent smell, though I gradually became receptive to the blooms' delicate fragrance. The scent of a broken root is of rich chlorophyll, like newly cut grass, perhaps tinged with mint. Its leaves are only slightly bitter to the taste, but perfectly palatable. Its soft, silk-like petals are not bitter tasting, but soft like buttercrunch lettuce.

Elementally, the torch-like shaped bud, and the bright yellow-centered radiant disc flower of the aster suggest the fire of the sun. It, perhaps along with the daisy, are the two flowers that are most similar to the image of the sun, raying forth. Green is certainly the plant's predominant color while brown (beige) runs from its root part-way up the stem. Both colors relate to its grounding in the earth. An air quality is indicated by its lavender petals with an additional quality being the top-heavy form which moves in even the gentlest of breezes. A water quality is implied by its fuzzy stem which retains water. But overall, I conclude, it is a "fire" plant, as indicated by its belonging to the Sunflower family.

Imaginatively, the message Showy Aster sent was loud and clear, not one I was expecting or even hoping to hear. "No one has ever paid so much attention to us before," it ("they"—the flowers?) said. I wondered, "In the region?" did it mean? At that very moment two deer who had been drawn to the creek were startled by my presence. They ran in fright. It was then that I imagined a bee-like insect flying down from the sky with a message that I couldn't detect.

An introspective "look" at the plant shows that a soft band of neon blue light radiates around its petals. The entire aster performs a dance with the breeze. It yearns to live, be noticed, remembered, even propagate. Perhaps this is part of its message or a clue to its healing properties. I begin to see its fan-like blades more clearly than before and how its buds encapsulate the sun's energy. Light manifests in its bloom—obvious perhaps, but I see it all so afresh in a way that's difficult to put into words.

"Listening" to Showy Aster I hear a woman singing a sad, soft melody as the dew drips down its petals. Listen closely to all its neighbors, she sings, for they are worthy of my devoted attention, too. With an affirmative "yes", the entire plant draws nearer to me as the wind leans it toward me. We all have a story to tell-each person, plant and animal. When we are in its presence, no matter what form of life-listen and bring forth its love, its life force. Not to do so is to be more that force of darkness that smothers life.


Click here to read Jack's essay exploring how this process
led to a quickening of important soul events in his life.


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