If you’re looking for beautiful, diverse flowers, you don’t need to look much further than asters. A genus of 180 species, asters come in all colors and sizes, which means there’s an aster for pretty much every occasion. There’s really only one shape the flowers take, though, and it’s the one that earns them their name.
Aster Plant History
The aster gets its name from the Greek word “aster,” which means star. According to Greek mythology, the goddess Asterea looked up into the sky and couldn’t see any stars, which made her sad (It’s understandable, given her starry name). She was so sad she started to weep, and where her tears fell, asters began to grow out of the ground.
While not quite as exciting as a sky full of stars, it must have done the trick, because people have been obsessed with asters ever since. Thomas Jefferson, in particular, was a big fan of China asters. He cultivated several varieties on his estate Monticello.
History of Aster Flowers as Symbols
While the Ancient Greeks liked asters, the Victorians loved them. In Victorian England, floriography (coded communication through the exchange of flowers) was all the rage and asters, with their wide range of colors, were the perfect medium. Purple asters represented wisdom and royalty, and were the most popular variety. White asters stood for purity, perfection, and innocence. Red asters were devotion, and pink asters were love.
These days floriography has fallen out of fashion somewhat, but asters still have an active symbolic life. They are the official flower of September birthdays, and of 20th wedding anniversaries. The can also still be used for their color meanings, with a little bit of an update. Instead of innocence, white asters can be used to represent new beginnings, like a graduation or the start of a new career. And red and pink asters can still be used for love, which never goes out of style.