The aster is considered to be the herb of Venus the goddess of love, it was introduced from Italy prior to 1600.
According to Virgil they were made into wreaths and used to adorn the altars of the gods. The name is derived from the Latin astrum meaning star, reflecting the shape of the flowers.
According to Greek legend they were formed when the Astraea, the 'Starry Maid', cried when she saw there were no stars upon the earth, the flowers then sprouted from her tears. In the language of flowers they are a symbol of love and daintiness. How many of us realise this when presenting them as a gift today?
Many of the species introduced from North America such as Symphyotrichum novi-belgii (New York aster) were used to breed the modern late flowering ornamentals we grow in gardens today. These are sometimes called Michaelmas Daisies as their flowering coincided with Michaelmas Day which had moved forward with the adaptation of the Gregorian calendar in 1752. Unlike the European species they have medicinal value having been used by Native Americans to treat everything from boils to snake bites and fever.