Eurybia macrophylla



  2003 Janet Novak
Reeves, Sonja L. 2006. Eurybia macrophylla. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].


Aster macrophyllus L. [42,71,82,86,91,103,112,116]


bigleaf aster
large-leaved aster
big-leaved aster

The scientific name of bigleaf aster is Eurybia macrophylla (L.) Cass. (Asteraceae) [38,55,73]. Hervey's aster (E. herveyi (Gray) Nesom) is a hybrid between bigleaf aster and eastern showy aster (E. spectabilis (Ait.) Nesom) [62,90]. When information specific to bigleaf aster is not available, information on the genus Eurybia is given.


No special status

Information on state-level protected status of plants in the United States is available at Plants Database.


SPECIES: Eurybia macrophylla
Bigleaf aster is found in the east-central and northeastern part of North America. Populations occur from Manitoba east to Nova Scotia, south to Georgia, and as far west as Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota. Bigleaf aster is rare in Manitoba, Missouri, and Iowa [55]. Flora of North America provides a distributional map of bigleaf aster.

FRES10 White-red-jack pine
FRES11 Spruce-fir
FRES15 Oak-hickory
FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood
FRES18 Maple-beech-birch
FRES19 Aspen-birch

STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)



K093 Great Lakes spruce-fir forest
K094 Conifer bog
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K096 Northeastern spruce-fir forest
K099 Maple-basswood forest
K100 Oak-hickory forest
K101 Elm-ash forest
K102 Beech-maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods-fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods-spruce forest
K109 Transition between K104 and K106

1 Jack pine
5 Balsam fir
12 Black spruce
13 Black spruce-tamarack
14 Northern pin oak
15 Red pine
16 Aspen
17 Pin cherry
18 Paper birch
19 Gray birch-red maple
20 White pine-northern red oak-red maple
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine-hemlock
23 Eastern hemlock
24 Hemlock-yellow birch
25 Sugar maple-beech-yellow birch
26 Sugar maple-basswood
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry-maple
30 Red spruce-yellow birch
31 Red spruce-sugar maple-beech
32 Red spruce
33 Red spruce-balsam fir
34 Red spruce-Fraser fir
35 Paper birch-red spruce-balsam fir
37 Northern white-cedar
38 Tamarack
39 Black ash-American elm-red maple
42 Bur oak
44 Chestnut oak
51 White pine-chestnut oak
52 White oak-black oak-northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
57 Yellow-poplar
58 Yellow-poplar-eastern hemlock
59 Yellow-poplar-white oak-northern red oak
60 Beech-sugar maple
107 White spruce
108 Red maple
110 Black oak
253 Black spruce-white spruce


Bigleaf aster is recognized as a dominant species in the following vegetation classifications:

Adirondack Mountains, New York
wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)/bigleaf aster type
beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta var. cornuta)/bigleaf aster type
bigleaf aster-whorled woody aster (Oclemena acuminata)-wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) type [48]

Boreal forests of North America
black spruce (Picea mariana)/red osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera)/bigleaf aster/red baneberry (Actaea rubra)
white spruce-fir (Picea glauca-Abies spp.)/beaked hazel/bush-honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)/bigleaf aster-wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) [34]

Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) is a common dominant associate of bigleaf aster in Wisconsin [28].

Kittredge [56] states that bigleaf aster is so ubiquitous among aspen (Populus spp.) communities of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin that it has almost no value as an indicator for habitat differences.


SPECIES: Eurybia macrophylla


  2003 Janet Novak
This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology, and is not meant for identification. Keys for identification are available [42,71,82,86,91,103,112,116].

Bigleaf aster is a native perennial forb. It is rhizomatous and colonial, often forming dense patches measuring up to 19 16 feet (5.8 5 m) [114]. It has basal and cauline leaves. The large basal leaves are borne on short, sterile shoots. They are thick, firm, and have long petioles. The cauline leaves become smaller and stalkless as they ascend the inflorescence. The inflorescence is a corymb that reaches heights of 5 feet (1.5 m). The corymb has sticky, glandular hairs. Flowers have both ray and disc florets. The fruit is a nutlet and is ellipsoid to oblanceolate, ribbed, and pubescent. The seed has a pappus [42,54,57,58,82,85,103].

Physiology: Bigleaf aster can persist in high light environments because of its ability to control stomatal conductance. Increases in evaporative loading, created in high light environments, initiate stomatal closure to prevent excessive water loss [89].


Bigleaf aster regenerates by seed and vegetative means. Regeneration is largely by vegetative means from rhizomes and root crown sprouts [2,17,78,118].

Pollination: Plants in the genus Eurybia are insect pollinated [13].

Breeding system: Plants in the genus Eurybia are gynomonoecious and dichogamous [13]. Natural hybridization is common in the genus Eurybia [87].

The annual clonal expansion of bigleaf aster can be up to a horizontal distance equivalent to the mother plant's height [69,98].

Seed production: Buse and Bell [17] state that bigleaf aster produces large seed crops annually. Bigleaf aster thrives in high light, requiring a moderate amount of light for flowering and subsequent seed production [23,43]. It is frequently found in the vegetative state in densely shaded areas, and the flowering stems are typically not present [43,57,58]. Seed production in these habitats is probably not dependable unless disturbance opens the canopy, allowing increased light.

Seed dispersal: Seeds of bigleaf aster are widely dispersed by small mammals and wind [2,17,50,98].

Seed banking is poorly documented for this species. Ahlgren [7] stated that there were no bigleaf aster seeds found in soil taken from burned and unburned sites in Minnesota.

Germination: No information is available on this topic.

Seedling establishment/growth: A greenhouse study was done on intact soil blocks taken from an unburned site and adjacent burned site, 3 years after a spring wildland fire in old-growth red pine (Pinus resinosa) in northeastern Minnesota. Bigleaf aster seedlings did not emerge on the soil taken from the burned site. Ahlgren [7] attributes this to the numerous bigleaf aster sprouts in the area, which had not recovered sufficiently to produce seed. Bigleaf aster seedlings were found on soil samples taken from the unburned site, possibly from windblown seed of older plants that flowered nearby [7].

Asexual regeneration: Bigleaf aster reproduces by rhizomes or by sprouting from the root crown [17,78,118].

Bigleaf aster occupies dry to moist, nutrient poor to intermediate nutrient sites on Isle Royale National Park, Michigan [46].

The following table describes site characteristics for bigleaf aster throughout its distribution.

State/Region/Province Site Characteristics
Georgia Woodlands, wooded road banks, and mountains [82]
Illinois Dry open woods [71]
Michigan Drier sites, less often in swamp forests and river banks [112]
Tennessee Woodlands, wooded road banks, and mountains
Virginia Woodlands, wooded road banks, and mountains [82]
West Virginia Dry to open woods and mountains [82,103]
Adirondack Mountains, New York Shaded, well-drained sites, 100 to 3,400 feet (30-1,000 m) [61]
Blue Ridge Mountains Rich woods [116]
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan Dry to moist, nutrient poor to intermediate nutrient sites [46]
Nova Scotia Dry woods, thickets, open barrens, often growing in the shade [86]

Bigleaf aster is ubiquitous throughout all seral stages. On Isle Royale National Park it is the most abundant ground cover species in all age groups of postfire succession. It is present in young and old quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) stands in northwestern Ontario [53,119]. Bigleaf aster was persistent throughout all stages of succession on boreal forests of southern Quebec [31]. These examples suggest that bigleaf aster does not follow a successional trend.

The underground organs of bigleaf aster can aid in the early phases of site recovery after harvesting and fire. The dense, clonal structure of bigleaf aster was an important storage sink for nutrients after whole-tree harvesting on red maple (Acer rubrum) and northern red oak (Quercus rubra) dominated forests of the Upper Michigan Peninsula [27]. On quaking aspen communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin and boreal forests of northern Ontario, the presence of bigleaf aster in the 1st year following fire suggests that it can be a pioneer species [56,92]. Bigleaf aster was abundant in the early postfire (26- and 46-year-old stands) successional stage of boreal forests in southern Quebec [31]. It was a pioneer species during the herbaceous stage of succession on "highland hardwood" burned areas in northern Minnesota [44]. Bigleaf aster is considered a dominant, "competitive" species of early successional boreal forests of Ontario [11,95].

Bigleaf aster is moderately to very shade tolerant [47,94]. The shade tolerance of bigleaf aster allows it to dominate the understory in mid- and late-seral stages [30,94]. After canopy closure bigleaf aster can proliferate for many years by vegetative growth in the understory and by utilizing canopy gaps [30]. Understory vegetation surveys of mid- to late-seral northern hardwood and boreal forests of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and southern Quebec reveal the presence and often abundance of bigleaf aster [6,26,37,88,101,108,110].

The following table provides flowering dates for bigleaf aster throughout its distribution.

State/Region/Province Anthesis Period
Georgia Late July to September [82]
Illinois August to October [107]
Tennessee Late July to September
Virginia Late July to September [82]
West Virginia Late July to September [82,103]
Adirondack Mountains, New York August [61]
Blue Ridge Mountains August to October [116]
New England Late July to September [91]
Nova Scotia July 15 to August [86]
Ontario Late summer [54]


SPECIES: Eurybia macrophylla
Fire adaptations: Bigleaf aster sprouts from rhizomes and root crowns after top-kill by fire. It also establishes after fire by dispersing seeds onto mineral soil from adjacent unburned areas [17,50].

Fire regimes for boreal forest communities, where bigleaf aster occurs most often, are mixed to high severity with fire return intervals ranging from 35 to 200 years. The northern hardwood forests, where bigleaf aster is also known to occur, historically burned infrequently: fire return intervals often greater than 1,000 years. When these forests do burn, fires tend to be low severity because the fuels are relatively wet [15].

The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where bigleaf aster is important. For further information, see the FEIS review of the dominant species listed below.

Community or Ecosystem Dominant Species Fire Return Interval Range (years)
maple-beech Acer-Fagus spp. 684-1,385 [25,113]
maple-beech-birch Acer-Fagus-Betula spp. >1,000
silver maple-American elm Acer saccharinum-Ulmus americana <5 to 200
sugar maple Acer saccharum >1,000
sugar maple-basswood Acer saccharum-Tilia americana >1,000 [113]
birch Betula spp. 80-230 [105]
beech-sugar maple Fagus spp.-Acer saccharum >1,000
black ash Fraxinus nigra <35 to 200 [113]
green ash Fraxinus pennsylvanica <35 to >300 [33,113]
tamarack Larix laricina 35-200 [80]
yellow-poplar Liriodendron tulipifera <35 [113]
Great Lakes spruce-fir Picea-Abies spp. 35 to >200
northeastern spruce-fir Picea-Abies spp. 35-200
black spruce Picea mariana 35-200
conifer bog* Picea mariana-Larix laricina 35-200
red spruce* Picea rubens 35-200 [32]
jack pine Pinus banksiana <35 to 200 [25,32]
red pine (Great Lakes region) Pinus resinosa 3-18 (x=3-10) [24,40]
red-white pine* (Great Lakes region) Pinus resinosa-P. strobus 3-200 [25,49,64]
eastern white pine Pinus strobus 35-200
eastern white pine-eastern hemlock Pinus strobus-Tsuga canadensis 35-200
eastern white pine-northern red oak-red maple Pinus strobus-Quercus rubra-Acer rubrum 35-200 [113]
aspen-birch Populus tremuloides-Betula papyrifera 35-200 [32,113]
black cherry-sugar maple Prunus serotina-Acer saccharum >1,000
oak-hickory Quercus-Carya spp. <35
northeastern oak-pine Quercus-Pinus spp. 10 to <35
white oak-black oak-northern red oak Quercus alba-Q. velutina-Q. rubra <35
northern pin oak Quercus ellipsoidalis <35
bur oak Quercus macrocarpa <10
chestnut oak Quercus prinus 3-8
northern red oak Quercus rubra 10 to <35
black oak Quercus velutina <35 [113]
eastern hemlock-yellow birch Tsuga canadensis-Betula alleghaniensis 100-240 [105,113]
eastern hemlock-white pine Tsuga canadensis-Pinus strobus x=47 [25]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species review

Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil
Caudex/herbaceous root crown, growing points in soil
Geophyte, growing points deep in soil
Secondary colonizer (on-site or off-site seed sources)


SPECIES: Eurybia macrophylla
Bigleaf aster is likely top-killed by fire. Established plants are probably resistant to fire-induced mortality because of soil-protected rhizomes.

Bigleaf aster shows fire tolerance [3,50].

Bigleaf aster responds favorably to fire, regenerating vegetatively from rhizomes and root crowns soon afterwards [3,17,18,19,20,65]. It often increases in abundance and produces more flowers after fire [2,70,99,104,106,112]. It is a dominant herb after wildland and prescribed fires, is present before and after burning, and is found on burned and unburned areas [1,2,4,9,59,70]. Sidhu [96] stated that the postfire response of bigleaf aster is affected more by fire intensity than by the time of burning. The greater the fire intensity, the greater the negative effect on bigleaf aster [96]. Research reveals, however, that bigleaf aster is capable of vegetative regrowth after low- and high-severity fires.

Smith [100] stated that the greatest abundance of bigleaf aster occurred after low-severity surface fires. "Vigorous" growth was observed the 1st growing season following a spring low-severity prescribed fire on eastern white pine forests in New Hampshire and for 3 postfire growing seasons after a spring wildfire in mature red and eastern white pine stands in northeastern Minnesota [6,19,20]. Bigleaf aster density increased immediately following a spring wildfire in a jack pine forest in northeastern Minnesota, making it 1 of the most common herbs on the site. The fire had varied intensities, including areas with intense crown fire and low-severity surface fire. The forest floor was still moist, with the fire occurring in May, so areas that did experience high-severity fire had only the upper portion of the forest floor burned [14,52,75,76].

Bigleaf aster sprouts were recorded within weeks and months after high-severity wildfires on alvar woodlands (white spruce, quaking aspen, northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis), and balsam fir (Abies balsamea)) and on old-growth red and eastern white pine forests in Ontario [18,65,97].

Bigleaf aster can be reduced by fire [45]. The percent cover of bigleaf aster declined after both low- and high-severity prescribed burns on jack pine forests in northern Ontario, but bigleaf aster maintained at least 10% cover in the 10 years monitored after the fire. The percent cover decline was greater on the high-severity burns than on the low-severity burns [66]. Postfire density of bigleaf aster was recorded the 1st growing season after a spring (low-severity) and a summer (high-severity) fire in northern Minnesota. Bigleaf aster responded less vigorously after the summer wildfire compared to the spring wildfire, with densities averaging 10 stems/m and 19 stems/m, respectively [77]. On bracken fern-grasslands in Wisconsin, bigleaf aster decreased after fire. However, the change in the percent frequency from before (23.3%) and after fire (17.7%) was only 5.6% [111].

Bigleaf aster also persists after fire by dispersing seeds onto mineral soil from adjacent undisturbed areas [17,50].

Bigleaf aster maintains a low, leafy habit in closed forest. Flowering increases dramatically after fire that opens the canopy [2,5,76,104]. The ability of bigleaf aster to flourish on open-canopy sites with charred soils may be attributed to its ability to effectively control stomatal conductance in open canopy situations (see Physiology)[89].

Bigleaf aster's fire-adaptive traits suggest that the use of prescribed fire that opens the canopy is beneficial for the species.

Bigleaf aster may aid in preventing wildfire ignition and slowing fire spread. Hogenbirk and Sarrazin-Delay [51] assessed the possibility of planting less-flammable vegetation including bigleaf aster in fire-prone areas, around property, or in fire-sensitive natural areas to reduce the spread of human-caused fires in herbaceous communities of northern Ontario. Bigleaf aster was 1 of 3 species that had the lowest potential ignitability.


SPECIES: Eurybia macrophylla
White-tailed deer commonly graze bigleaf aster [10,22,52]. Bigleaf aster is also a component of the summer diet of moose on Isle Royale National Park [72].

Palatability/nutritional value: No information is available on this topic.

Cover value: Bigleaf aster may be an important habitat component for ruffed grouse. It is an important ground cover species in upland forest types of northern Minnesota, where ruffed grouse are common [67].

No information is available on this topic.

No information is available on this topic.

The literature reviewed below indicates positive and negative aspects of bigleaf aster to considered when deciding how to manage bigleaf aster populations.

Disturbance: Bigleaf aster responds favorably to other disturbances besides fire. Logging, windthrow, and road construction have all had positive effects on bigleaf aster populations [27,45,68,78,79,96,112]. When light, nutrients, and mineral soil become more abundant, as is the case following tree canopy removal, bigleaf aster enters a phase of "release" growth, increasing rapidly by vegetative reproduction and seeds [16,17]. Powell and Brooks [81] report, however, that bigleaf aster exhibited "significantly greater cover" (p<0.01) in the remaining standing forest than in the disturbed areas 2 years after tornado blowdown on a mixed conifer/northern hardwood forest in northern Minnesota.

Interference: Bigleaf aster is a major competitor for light, water, nutrients, and rooting space [17,63,95]. The dense, mat-like underground roots and rhizomes often exclude other species including conifer germinants [17,39,63]. Bigleaf aster may be allelopathic for some plant species [17,29]. The leachates of bigleaf aster foliage inhibited germination and early growth of white and black spruce [36]. In laboratory studies bigleaf aster reduced height growth, dry weight of roots and shoots, and the formation of secondary needles of red pine seedlings. It also reduced radicle elongation and slightly hindered the germination of red pine seeds [74]. Allelopathic agents of the Eurybia genus negatively affect black cherry and sugar maple [36].

Disease: Bigleaf aster is an alternate host of jack pine needle rust (Coleosporeum asterum) [8]. Its development may be slowed by jack pine needle rust infection, reducing bigleaf aster cover [11,95].

Control: Hexazinone can reduce bigleaf aster populations. When applied in June on sites in Ontario, it controlled bigleaf aster for 2 years. An increase in bigleaf aster abundance followed applications of glyphosate [17].

Eurybia macrophylla: REFERENCES

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2. Ahlgren, Clifford E. 1960. Some effects of fire on reproduction and growth of vegetation in northeastern Minnesota. Ecology. 41(3): 431-445. [207]
3. Ahlgren, Clifford E. 1960. Vegetational development following burning in the northern coniferous forest of Minnesota. In: Proceedings, annual meeting of the Society of American Foresters; 1959 November 15-19; San Francisco, CA. Bethesda, MD: Society of American Foresters: 21-22. [29104]
4. Ahlgren, Clifford E. 1966. Small mammals and reforestation following prescribed burning. Journal of Forestry. 64: 614-618. [206]
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6. Ahlgren, Clifford E. 1976. Regeneration of red pine and white pine following wildfire and logging in northeastern Minnesota. Journal of Forestry. 74: 135-140. [7242]
7. Ahlgren, Clifford E. 1979. Emergent seedlings on soil from burned and unburned red pine forest. Minnesota Forestry Research Notes No. 273. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, College of Forestry. 4 p. [16910]
8. Anderson, Ralph L.; Anderson, Neil A. 1978. Alternate host of jack pine needle rust in northern Minnesota. Research Note NC-237. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. 3 p. [62770]
9. Apfelbaum, Steven; Haney, Alan. 1981. Bird populations before and after wildfire in a Great Lakes pine forest. The Condor. 83: 347-354. [8556]
10. Balgooyen, Christine P.; Waller, Donald M. 1995. The use of Clintonia borealis and other indicators to gauge impacts of white-tailed deer on plant communities in northern Wisconsin, USA. Natural Areas Journal. 15(4): 308-318. [26493]
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