Species Profile

Anticosti Aster

Scientific Name: Symphyotrichum anticostense
Other/Previous Names: Aster anticostensis
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Quebec, New Brunswick
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2017
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Anticosti Aster

Anticosti Aster Photo 1



The Anticosti Aster is a slender, herbaceous, perennial plant that grows 50 to 60 cm tall. It forms clones of stiff, erect stems. These bear upward-curving branches towards the top. The stemless leaves are narrow at the base and curve upwards at the ends. Their margins have no, or very few, serrations and the mid vein on the underside of the leaf is hairy. The leaves on the branches are much smaller than those near the base of the plant. Relatively few pale purple or lilac flowers are produced, with one flower head at the end of each branch.


Distribution and Population

The Anticosti Aster is endemic to (occurs only near) the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and is found mainly in Quebec, but also in New Brunswick and Maine. It has a restricted range and is known from 16 localities in Canada. The species has disappeared from one of these. Twelve of the sites have a combined total population of more than 30,000 stems, and the status of the three remaining sites is unknown. In addition, the plant persists at only one of the localities where it formerly occurred in Maine.



The Anticosti Aster occurs on limestone outcrops or gravel along the banks of fast flowing rivers that cut through boreal forest. It usually grows on gentle slopes in the gravely, calcareous (alkaline) soil of sites maintained in the pioneer stage (almost devoid of vegetation) by the periodic action of ice and high spring waters.



Aster seeds germinate in spring and plants can flower and produce seeds in their first year. When other asters grow in the same area, hybridization can occur. The Anticosti Aster is dependent on cyclic disturbances caused by spring high waters to keep shrubs and other competing species from taking over the habitat and gradually eliminating the aster.



The species is naturally limited by the availability of suitable specialized habitat. Disruptions to the habitat by all-terrain vehicles and upstream flooding as well as regulation of downstream water level by dams are the main threats to the species. Cottage developments, boat ramp construction, hybridization with other asters and grazing by deer also threaten the species in some areas.



Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Anticosti Aster is protected by the New Brunswick Endangered Species Act and the Quebec Act Respecting Threatened or Vulnerable Species. Under these Acts, it is prohibited to possess, trade, or harm this species, or to disturb its habitat.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Anticosti Aster (Symphyotrichum anticostense) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date Since 2001, there has been substantial inventory and survey work dedicated to identifying Anticosti Aster locations and to highlighting conservation needs and stewardship opportunities. A National Recovery Strategy for the Anticosti Aster has been developed, and recovery planning is also underway in the two provinces where the species occurs. The New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources has drafted a provincial recovery strategy for this aster. There are 22 known sites in the province, and additional local populations might be found when other areas of suitable habitat are surveyed. In 2006, the Government of Quebec developed a conservation plan for the species, and is now working on an action plan. There are 11 known sites of Anticosti Aster in Quebec. For two of them, the plant was last observed more than 70 years ago. The populations at six other sites are small. More than 90% of the total number of plants is concentrated in only three populations. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities In 2000, the Anticosti Aster was known to occur at only four sites in New Brunswick. In 2002, provincial staff inventoried known aster sites and also conducted opportunistic surveys of potential suitable habitat, which led to the discovery of 10 additional sites. New sites have been discovered since that time, occurring over three major river systems: the Restigouche River and its tributaries, the Miramichi River, and the Saint John River. There is potential for new occurrences in New Brunswick in suitable river habitat which has not been surveyed. In 2006, a survey and stewardship initiative at Lac Saint-Jean in Quebec involved property owners, vacationers, and the local industry (Alcan). Future efforts will target inventories on Anticosti Island, mainly to evaluate the impact of grazing by deer. Broad-based, randomized surveys of known sites repeated on a regular basis are being recommended to determine population trends. This should be done together with directed searches in suitable habitat that has not been previously surveyed. The species would benefit from research to determine site persistence, habitat needs, effects of deer grazing, and population genetics. Summary of Recovery Activities The Nature Trust of New Brunswick has actively encouraged voluntary landowner conservation measures on their properties to support the Anticosti Aster. Educational conservation information has been made available to the public through brochures, presentations, and direct landowner contact. In Quebec, two populations are protected: one at Grande-Rivière, an ecological reserve also protected under the provincial Act Respecting Threatened or Vulnerable Species, and one at Bonaventure, protected through a proposed biodiversity reserve. In 2001, a detailed inventory was conducted along the Grande Rivière in order to identify administrative measures to increase the protection of the largest known population of the species. Development of regulations to protect habitat on the Mashteuiatsh reserve has also been initiated. Finally, the Regional County Municipality of Rocher-Percé, on the Gaspé Pensinsula, has adopted the Anticosti Aster as its floral emblem. Future recovery efforts will need to focus on protecting the populations on public lands, and raising the awareness of fisher folk regarding the conservation value of the Anticosti Aster and the sort of activities that are thought to negatively impact on survival of the plant. Landowner participation and cooperation are key to successful recovery of the Anticosti Aster. URLs The Nature Trust of New Brunswick: Rare Flora of the Upper St. John River:http://www.naturetrust.nb.ca/st-john-anticosti-aster.php Plantes menacées ou vulnérables au Québec: Aster d’Anticosti: http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/biodiversite/especes/aster/aster.htm


PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

2 record(s) found.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Anticosti Aster (Symphyotrichum anticostense) in Canada (2012)

    The Anticosti Aster (Symphyotrichum anticostense) is a perennial flowering plant. It is listed as Threatened under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. The current Canadian distribution is restricted to coastal areas of south-central Anticosti Island, the rivers feeding into the north shore of Baie des Chaleurs in the Gaspé Peninsula, Lac Saint-Jean (one location, at Mashteuiatsh), and along several large fast-flowing rivers in northern, central and southern New Brunswick. The Minister of Environment is the competent minister for the recovery of the Anticosti Aster and has prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the Government of Québec and the Government of New Brunswick.

Residence Description

  • Residence Rationale - Anticosti Aster (2007)

    Individual Anticosti Aster plants do not appear to use a dwelling place similar to a nest or den, and therefore do not qualify for having a residence. There would be no additional legal protection not already afforded by protection of the individual and its critical habitat.