Ruths Golden Aster growing on rock cropping in the Ocoee River.

Ruth’s Golden Aster –  Ocoee River Wild Flower Spotlight

As you raft down the Ocoee River keep and eye out for the Ruth’s Golden Aster (Pityopsis ruthii). This gorgeous little flower only grows along the Ocoee River and the Hiwassee River in Polk County, TN.  

Preferring full sun this wild flower grows in the rock cracks and crevasses along the rivers edge and on the rock croppings in the middle of the river.  The Flowers grow on stems about 8 to 12 inches tall and have narrow green leaves that have silver hairs covering them. They bloom a brilliant yellow, August thru September, so they are easy to spot while rafting most any section of the Ocoee River. 

Ruth’s Golden Aster is on the federal endangered species list due to habitat loss and the encroachment of competing plant species. Efforts to save the flower are underway and include greenhouse propagation, habitat preservation and removal of the competing vegetation.

One of the best spots to see the aster is on the Middle Ocoee Rafting Trip. Just past Double-Suck Rapid there is a rock island in the middle of the river.  A plaque on the stone island informs guests about the rare wild flowers and warns guests not to walk or pick the flowers as part of the conservation effort. 

If you see this wonderful specimen on the river please take only pictures and help us get the word out about this native wildflower. 

Golden Aster blooming on the Middle Ocoee River.

Jennifer and Grant Outlaw are co-owners of Carolina Outfitters and Carolina Ocoee.  They’ve been paddling whitewater in the Ducktown, TN and Bryson City, NC rivers for years and know how to help you have a great experience.


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