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Dense Blazing Star, Marsh Gayfeather, Spike Gayfeather - Liatris spicata


Family: Asteraceae - Aster family Genus Common Name: Blazing Star Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Herb
Liatris spicata - Dense Blazing Star, Marsh Gayfeather, Spike Gayfeather. Liatris spicata is found in most of the eastern half of the United States, primarily east of the Mississippi River. The populations that are found west of the Mississippi are likely the result of naturalization from garden escapees. There are two varieties: var. resinosa and var. spicata. Var. resinosa is found in the coastal plains of the southeast, and is differentiated primarily by narrower leaves than in var. spicata, and more abrupt change from relatively wider leaves in the lower have of the stem to nearly linear, bractlike leaves in the upper stem.

Most likely to be found flowering in July thru September, it is found in a variety of habitats where it can receive full sun or perhaps a bit of shade. It is tolerant of a range of soil and moisture conditions, but probably most commonly seen on road margins. It is a good addition to native plant gardens.

Found in:
AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, TN, VA, WI, WV

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Liatris spicata

Distribution of Liatris spicata in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 23 Aug 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Cloudland Canyon State Park, Dade County, GA Date: 2013-July-16Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The flowers of Liatris spicata are usually sessile within the spiked inflorescence, although they may have a very short peduncle. There may be as few as 4 or as many as 12 rose-purple (sometimes white) disc florets in the individual blossom, with 5 to 8 being most common. In my research I havenít been able to find what the elongated appendages are arising from the florets, but my guess it is the style. Multiply two of these times the many blossoms in the inflorescence and you get a feathery impression from the bloom, yielding the Gayfeather common name.
Liatris spicata

Site: Cloudland Canyon State Park, Dade County, GA Date: 2013-July-16Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The inflorescence is a long spike, blooming from the top down. The plant on the left in this photo started blooming before the plant on the right. The reduced upper caudal leaves continue into the lower part of the inflorescence.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Liatris spicata

Site: Cloudland Canyon State Park, Dade County, GA Date: 2013-July-16Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
You can find large colonies of Liatris spicata blooming urually in July through September in a variety of sunny habitats, although the plant can tolerate some shade. They grow up to 6 feet tall, although 3 to 4 feet is more the norm.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Liatris spicata

Site: Cloudland Canyon State Park, Dade County, GA Date: 2013-July-16Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Both the basal and the alternating stem leaves of Dense Blazing Star are long and narrow, increasing significantly up the stem - quite suddenly about halfway up the stem in var. resinosa.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Liatris spicata

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer