Also known as gayfeather for its feathery stalks, this wildflower is an erect, slender perennial reaching a height of 3 to 4 feet when sited in full sun. The narrow, grass-like leaves are larger and clumped near the base of the plant, becoming progressively smaller as they extend up the stem to the vivid pink-purple, nectar-rich flowers. The fine-textured foliage remains attractive all summer; in the fall, leaves and stalks turn a rich orangey bronze with wheat-colored seed heads. As the most moisture-tolerant of the Liatris species (another common name is marsh blazing star), it grows well in moister soils but adapts to occasionally dry and nutrient-poor soils.
Liatris is packed with pollinators during the blooming season. Hummingbirds and numerous butterflies, bees, and other pollinators are attracted to the flowers, which, in turn, attracts insectivorous birds and insects. The seeds persist through winter to fortify indigo bunting, goldfinches, and other seed-eating birds.
Liatris is often found in moist areas and meadows. It makes a statement whether planted singly, in containers, or when massed in gardens or perennial borders. It excels as a long-lasting cut flower.
Grows to 3-4’ or sometimes 6’ tall and 1-2’ wide.
Grows in full sun to part shade. Tolerates heat and humidity.
Prefers wet to medium moisture and richer loams but tolerates heavier loams, clay, and gravelly soils.
Tiny, densely packed, pinkish-purple flowers bloom from the top down on 6-12” spikes from July-August.
Host plant for 3 species of Lepidoptera larvae in central Ohio, including the Schinia gloriosa (a flower moth pictured here), which feeds on the flowers and seeds. The larval form of the liatris borer moth (Schinea sanguinea, pictured here) eats the stems. Rabbits and deer nibble the foliage and stems, and the corms are a preferred food of meadow or prairie voles.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
The roots have been used by Native Americans for a variety of ailments, including the treatment of abdominal pain, colic, snake bite, and swelling.
The corms, or roots, are believed to have been eaten by Native Americans. The carrot-flavored roots have inulin, which doesn’t spike glucose levels.
Makes a long-lasting cut flower.
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