Perennial saltmarsh aster

Pictured above: Perennial saltmarsh aster (Symphyotrichum tenuifolium) by Emily Bell. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View post as a PDF.

Perennial saltmarsh aster (Symphyotrichum tenuifolium) has been described online as a “weak straggly plant,” however, as one of the few and often the only large-flowered species present among the grasses and rushes of the salt marsh, it plays an important ecological role for native bees! It forms dense clumps or mats, making it quite conspicuous even though its flowers are small and sparse. It blooms from summer to early winter.

The species epithet tenuifolium is derived from the Latin tenu, meaning “slender,” and foli, meaning “leaves.” This refers to the narrowly lanceolate leaves which are simple and alternately arranged. Although soft, they almost appear to come to a sharp point at the tips. Leaf margins are entire. Stems are flexuous and typically glabrous. Its yellow disc florets are surrounded by many white to pale purple ray florets.

Photo by Emily Bell
Photo by Emily Bell

Family: Asteraceae (Aster, composite or daisy family)
Native range: Coastal counties throughout Florida
To see where natural populations of Perennial saltmarsh aster have been vouchered, visit
Hardiness zone: Zones 8B–11B
Lifespan: Perennial
Soil: Saline soils, predominantly sandy and/or peaty
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: Herbaceous with spreading stems, reaching up to 4 feet
Propagation: Seed, rhizomes

Perennial saltmarsh aster plants are not commercially available. Visit a natural area to see them.

For more information on other Symphyotrichum species, see these resources: