Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fall Asters in Bloom

The asters are members of the important family of bee plants, the composites, or sunflower family. The composites make up one of the largest families of flowering plants in the world. Composites account for about 10 percent of all flowering plants, nearly 25 thousand species. The composites are important to the bees, as they are heavy producers of nectar and pollen. Other composite flowers include the sunflowers, yarrow, daisies, cornflower, or bachelor’s button, star thistle, or knapweed, coreopsis, coneflower, boneset, bitterweed, goldenrod, and dandelion. Composites that are considered of economic importance include lettuce, chicory, artichoke, chrysanthemum, and sunflower. Each of these plants depends upon bees for pollination.

Today’s picture is of golden aster. Click on the picture to zoom in on a honey bee collecting golden aster pollen. She packs the pollen onto her pollen baskets on her hind legs. The bloom of the fall asters definitely indicates a change of seasons. Asters bloom throughout the spring, summer, and fall. However, the fall asters are the only ones heavily worked by honey bees. Pure aster honey is rather strong in flavor, but when aster nectar is added to nectar from other sources in the hive, distinct flavors arise. The honey from the same hive changes in flavor throughout the year and from year to year depending upon the flowers that happen to be blooming. This is the first year that I have found golden asters at Peace Bee Farm. I regularly find several species of fall asters in white and two or three hues of blue on the farm. Asters are native wildflowers that are often cultivated. Asters make a good addition to a pollinator garden.

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