Sunday, 1 July 2012


The European Michaelmas daisy gets its name because it blooms around the time of St. Michael’s day (Michael the archangel) which is celebrated on the 29th September. It is also called Italian starwort and in Italian is Astro di Vergilio, or Virgil’s Aster. This is no doubt because Virgil mentions it in his Georgics written more than 2,000 years ago. This is a translation of the passage in which the asters are mentioned

“There is a useful flower                                                                     
Growing in the meadows, which the country folk
Call star-wort, not a blossom hard to find,
For its large cluster lifts itself in air                                                   
Out of one root; its central orb is gold
But it wears petals in a numerous ring
Of glossy purplish blue; ’tis often laid
In twisted garlands at some holy shrine.
Bitter its taste; the shepherds gather it
In valley-pastures where the winding streams
Of Mella flow. The roots of this, steeped well,
In hot, high-flavored wine, thou may’st set down
At the hive door in baskets heaping full.”
  From this passage we assume that it was placed on some altars to the ancient gods, perhaps because It was a late bloomer, although there are other legends associated with the aster such as the one that when Astraea a goddess fled Earth with the rest of the gods, she looked down at it and wept for the folly of mankind. Another legend says that Virgo scattered stardust on Earth and asters bloomed where it fell.
  It does indeed have a bitter, acrid taste, but the leaves of the young plant are cooked and are nutritious, containing vitamins A and C they were useful against the onset of scurvy, and they also contain some of the B-complex vitamins, particularly thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3). They are potassium rich and also contain the minerals calcium, iron and phosphorous.
These plants are native to Europe and East Asia and have been cultivated in Britain at least since 1596, as we know that they grew in John Gerard’s Holborn Physic garden then.
  Mediaeval herbalists used this plant to treat tumours, obstruction of the bowels, hysteria and epilepsy- some very diverse diseases. They actually can help with coughs, and have anti-inflammatory properties, and can help eliminate toxins from the body. They are used to treat bronchial and chest complaints and to check bleeding.
  Pliny believed that a tisane made with asters was good for snakebites and he encouraged people who suffered from sciatica to wear an amulet of these plants. The ancient Greeks burnt the leaves to get rid of evil spirits and snakes.
  Michaelmas daisies mean ‘farewell’ in the Language of Flowers. They are members of the daisy, Asteraceae or Compositae family and so are related to pellitory or Roman chamomile, marigolds, bur marigoldspurple goat’s beard (salsify), yellow goat’s beard, the Sea Aster or Sea starwort (which they closely resemble) elecampane, the ox-eye daisy, holy thistles, costmary, tansy, feverfew, groundsel , fleabane and yarrow, just to list a few of its relatives.


  1. I found your site when Googling around, trying to learn a bit more about the asters in my yard. Thanks for the info!

  2. Thanks for your wisdom. I found some growing in my garden. I'm going to transplant it in my flower box with some wild lettuce.


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