Michaelmas Daisies or Asters are simply named – from the greek ‘Aster’ meaning ‘a star’- referring to the shape of the flowers (though in truth some are more star – shaped than others).
The genus Aster once contained nearly 600 species in Eurasia and North America, but after research on the genus during the 1990s, it was decided that the North American species are better treated in a series of other related genera. After this split there are now roughly 180 species within the genus, all but one being confined to Eurasia. Many species and a variety of hybrids and varieties are popular as garden plants because of their attractive and colourful flowers, which are abundant in the Autumn- hence the association with Michaelmas – the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel (also the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael, the Feast of the Archangels, or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels) – 29th September. Because it falls near the equinox, this date is associated in the northern hemisphere with the beginning of Autumn and the shortening of daylight.
The genus Aster is now generally restricted to the Old World species, with Aster amellus being the type species of the genus, as well as of the family Asteraceae. Species names include:
A. acris = acrid, pungent
A. alpinus = alpine
A. amellus = name given by Virgil to a blue aster-like plant by the River Melia
A. cordifolia = heart-shaped leaves
A. delayvi = of Abbe Delayvi, a missionary
A. diffusus = spread out
A. dumosus = bushy
A. ericoides = like Erica (heather)
A. farreri = of Farrer
A. x frikartii = Frickart’s Aster, a hybrid of A. amellus and A. thomsonii
A. laevis = small, polished
A. linosyris = flax (Linum)- like
A. puniceus = purple
A. subcoeruleus = somewhat or slightly blue
A. vimineus = with long, pliant growths , like an osier
A. yunnanensis = of Yunnan, China
The Hungarian revolution of 31 October 1918, became known as the ‘Aster Revolution’ due to protesters in Budapest wearing this flower.
Sources and further information:
Old School Gardener
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