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Prairie Blazing Star Liatris pycnostachya


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Prairie Blazing Star
credit: Daderot

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Alternate name: Cattail Gayfeather

Family: Asteraceae, Aster view all from this family

Description Showy, spiky purple flowers.
Habit: native perennial herb; with a single erect, hairy, leafy stem, rises from a woody, egg-sized corm.
Height: 1.3-6 ft (40-180 cm)
Leaf: abundant, alternate, linear, arching upward, 4-20 in (10-50 cm) long, 1/8-1/2 in (4-12 mm) wide; becoming smaller above.
Flower: small purple flowerhead, 1/2 in (12 mm) wide, held in a dense terminal spike, blooming from the top down.
Fruit: dry seed, to .2 in (5 mm), tipped with long barbs.

Flower June to October.

Flower August

Habitat Moist sites in full sun: tall grass prairie, moist meadows, open woods, railroads, roadsides; often grown as an ornamental.

Range Native to tall grass prairie of the central U.S., from North Dakota east to Wisconsin, south to Kentucky and Louisiana and west to Texas and central Nebraska; now naturalized in the northeast, as far east as New Jersey and Massachusets.

Discussion Also known as: kansas gayfeather, cat-tail gayfeather, thick-spike blazing-star, thick-spike gay-feather. Threatened in Indiana. Pycnostachya means "with crowded spike" in botanical Latin.

Comments This blazing star makes an excellent cut flower, blooming in top-down order. Its blooms occur earlier than L. cylindrica or L. aspera.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Native Distribution Wisconsin to South Dakota, s. to Louisiana & e. Texas

Site Preference Prairies; rocky, open areas; bluffs

Soil Preference Moist, well-drained soils. pH 5.5-7.

Wildlife Value Butterflies frequent Liatris spp.