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“The rice having been reaped The nogiku weaken and dwindle Along the path.”

By Shiki Masaoka (1867-1902) quoted in “Haiku,” by R. H. Blyth (Hokuseido Press)

There are so many species and naturally occurring hybrids of wild asters that they are hard to identify, so nogiku , literally “field chrysanthemum,” is a useful all-purpose name. With their pale-purple blooms, these autumn-flowering species remind us of the gardener’s Michaelmas daisies, derived from American wild asters. Some Japanese daisies have also moved into the garden, such as the delicate Kanto yome-na (Kanto bride flower). However, I picked the above sprig of yuga-giku recently on a sunny hillside in Niigata Prefecture. Despite competition from the tough grasses all around, the flourishing plant had grown to a height of about 120 cm. A yellow Brimstone butterfly was also admiring it, attracted to the pollen-filled florets in the center of each composite bloom.