Blazing Star

Liatris spicata

Asteraceae - Aster Family

Liatris spicata, the dense blazing star or prairie gay feather, is an herbaceous perennial plant native throughout most of eastern North America, propagating from New Jersey to Illinois and Florida to Louisiana.1 It is commonly grown in gardens for its showy purple, pink, or white flowers.1 All flowers appear during the summertime months of July and August.2 Its native habitat is moist openings in woodlands, mesic prairies, and marsh edges.3
It typically grows 2-4' tall in cultivation, but can reach a height of 6' in ideal growing conditions.1 The inflorescence is 6-12" long, forming rounded, fluffy and deep purple flower heads. 1 Each leafy flower stalk is 3/4" across appearing atop rigid, erect, leafy flower stalks.1 Stem leaves gradually decrease in size toward the top.1 The flowers begin to bloom from the top and slowly work downward, unlike most other flowers which bloom the opposite direction.4
Blazing star is great for attracting butterflies, birds, and hummingbirds; butterflies are the primary pollinators.2 It is commercially available but requires a three month cold period and scarification (light knick with knife) to germinate.1 There are some reports that Liatris spicata was consumed by Native Americans.4 The Kiowa Indians baked the roots over a fire and ate them; the Blackfoot Indians boiled the roots and applied it to swellings or ingested it to alleviate stomach ailments.4

References and Useful Websites:
1 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Universitty of Texas
2 Kemper Center for Home Gardening - Missouri Botanical Garden
3 Natural Resources Conservation Service - U. S. Department of Agriculture
4 Nikki Phipps, Breck's Bulbs


This page was prepared by Chris Pogue, Biology 102, Fall 2011

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