The Seasonal Almanac: Events for August and September 1996

The Seasonal Almanac covers astronomical events and nature, including fall asters, August's shooting stars and the harvest moon eclipse.

| August/September 1996

The Seasonal Almanac shares astronomical events in April and May 1996. 

The Seasonal Almanac: Events for August and September 1996

There may be chills on August and September nights, and we may be regretting that summer is waning. But there are flowers aplenty at this time of year, and many of them have something in common Thoreau noticed. In his journal in 1853 he asked: "Do not the flowers of August and September generally resemble suns and stars — sunflowers and asters and the single flowers of the goldenrod?" 

We might consider sunflowers and goldenrod (which, by the way, is confused with ragweed but is brighter and is not responsible, like ragweed, for great numbers of allergy problems). But, this time, let's focus on the usually lavender flowers whose color complements so well the great fields of goldenrod they often bloom among — let's focus on the aster.

As Thoreau well knew, the word aster is Greek for "star" — as in astronomy (study of the stars) and asteroids (little worlds so small they look "starlike" in the telescope). The flower part of these long- stalked plants do look like stars — what seem like their petals are finer and more numerous than those of daisies (another flower named for the sun — the original name was "day's-eye"; the eye of day, of course, being the sun).

In reality, the bloom of the aster is a flower head, each one of the "petals" is itself a flower.

In the aster, the "rays" of the star spread out from a central "disk" (reminiscent of a daisy's center) which is typically yellow. But the disk may turn to purple or to dark red as it gets pollinated. Not all asters have "ray" flowers that are lavender either — there are various shades of blue and purple and white.

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