A coarse, upright, much-branched perennial that can cover entire valleys. Flowerheads bright yellow, to 1½ inches wide, bracts often purple-tipped. Ray flower corollas about ½ to ⅜ inch long. Blooms June–October. Leaves hairy (as are the stems), alternate, sessile, often with a few fine, sharp teeth, to 3 inches long, elliptical to lanceolate, with pointed tips.
Similar species: Of the 2 other Heterotheca spp. in Missouri, only camphorweed, or telegraph plant (H. subaxillaris), is likely to be encountered. It’s mostly in the Bootheel and along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers; the corollas of its ray flowers are shorter, about ¼ to ⅜ inch long. Soft goldenaster (Bradburia pilosa) is closely related. It is annual, rarely more than 2 feet tall, has flowerheads less than 1 inch wide, and is found in the southern third of Missouri.
Height: 15–55 inches.
Scattered mostly south of the Missouri River.
Habitat and Conservation
Sand prairies, glades, ledges and tops of bluffs, openings of dry upland forests, banks of streams and rivers, bottomland forests, and swamps; also pastures, old fields, fallow fields, levees, railroads, roadsides, and open disturbed areas, often in sandy soils.
There are several plants called “golden aster” in Missouri. Although some native Missouri species used to be considered true asters (in the genus Aster), all have now been completely separated from that Old World genus. Meanwhile, botanists, using DNA evidence and peering closely at details of achene (seed) shape, continue to debate the limits of the genus Heterotheca. As one of the state’s preeminent botanists put it, the situation is “sufficient to cause temporary lightheadedness.”
Golden aster tolerates drought and is a good native plant for midsized borders and native, prairie, or naturalized areas. Also sometimes called lemon yellow false goldenaster.
A variety of bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies visit the flowers.