This paper presents an experimental investigation of the characteristics of a plasma actuator design for flow control consisting of an annular electrode in quiescent and flat plate boundary layer flows. In quiescent flow, the circular plasma region produced on actuation was observed to generate a vertical zero-net mass flux (or synthetic) jet, hence the name plasma synthetic jet actuator, the characteristics of which were found to be affected by the actuator operation mode (steady or unsteady). Pulsed operation of the actuator results in the formation of a starting vortex ring that advects ahead of the jet and secondary vortex rings near the actuator surface due to the additional plasma-induced fluid entrainment in the boundary layer. By varying the actuator pulsing frequency, multiple vortex rings were created in the flowfield and the resulting vortex ring interactions were found to increase both the peak velocity and streamwise extent of the jet. The interaction of the actuator with a crossflow was observed to be similar to that seen in conventional or non zero-net mass flux jets with the plasma synthetic jet penetrating into the mean flow. As expected, the influence of the jet on the freestream was found to decrease with increasing mean velocity and the impact on displacement and momentum thickness values diminishes as well.