What New York’s State Flower Should Be

Aster novi-belgii

New York aster. Photograph by Shihmei Barger, Flickr Creative Commons

What New York’s state flower is: the rose, unimaginatively. What it probably should be? The New York aster.

It’s silly in the first place for a climatically diverse state to single out a single flower. Spadderdock, blackberry, trillium—all are worthy. In any case, let us now praise late bloomers.

Currently in periwinkle bloom along roadsides, shorelines and in meadows, the New York aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) is showier and tidier than most of the dozens of other pink, white and purple aster species also in flower. And despite its name, this fall wildflower ranges beyond the Empire State.

Cornell University, also a New York institution, recommends the perennial as a native garden plant. There are several varieties. The New York aster is often mistaken for the New England aster, and, really, parsing asters, like identifying ferns and goldenrod, is a task only for the devoted. “There are many Asters and they hybridize quite readily making positive identification very difficult,” according to Wildflowers of the Adirondacks by Anne McGrath.