Common name: prairie blazing star, cattail gay feather
Scientific name: Liatris pycnostachya
Light requirement: full morning sun
Hardiness: Hardy 1 - injure below 23°F
Planting time: spring or fall
Soil type: moist, well-drained soil; drought tolerant
Planting depth: 5 inches
Height: 12 - 48 inches
Flowering season: summer
Flower description: various shades of purple, spike-shaped, blooms from top downward
Prairie blazing star can be used not only for prairie restoration and landscaping, but is good for wildlife food and habitat and wildflower gardens. Visit your local nursery to find seeds for your next planting.
Liatris pycnostachya, known as the prairie blazing star, is a perennial plant that belongs to the aster family. There are thirty species of this particular wildflower in North America, seven of which reside in Indiana - namely rough, northern, plains, cylindrical marsh and the prairie blazing star.
Blazing stars are unique and beautiful wildflowers. They are well-known for their colorful, feathery flower-heads which are densely clustered on stems covered with slender, grass-like leaves. This feather-like look is why the blazing star is commonly known as gayfeather.
The prairie blazing star blooms during the summer months to early fall, between late July and September. Their erect stands of tall pink to dark lavender spikes are hard to miss. Though found naturally in the small native remnants of our prairie lands, the blazing star does remarkably well in home gardens. Its unusual characteristic of blooming from top to bottom makes the blazing star a good choice in fresh-cut floral arrangements. By merely pruning the top dead flowers, fresh flowers are just a snip away.
Populations of prairie blazing stars were once more numerous than they are today. Once abundant in native prairie landscapes, they have been reduced to fragmented populations due to conversion of prairie to agricultural fields and urbanization. Many of these remnant natural areas still remain, due to conservation efforts of federal, state and private organizations.
The Nature Conservancy is helping to protect these natural areas, of which Liatris pycnostachya is a part, by partnering with other local agencies and preserving their necessary habitat. Using techniques such as re-introduction of fire, mowing woody species and eradicating pesky invasive and exotic species, the blazing star wildflower and its prairie habitat will surely thrive for years to come.
For more information on our work in restoring prairie and prairie species, visit our Kankakee Sands Restoration Project office.February 20, 2013