Prairie Blazing Star, Tall Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather, Cattail Gayfeather, Button Snakeroot
(Liatris pycnostachya var. pycnostachya)
Synonyms of Liatris pycnostachya var. pycnostachya (11) (Updated on 2-11-22 from Plants of the World Online): Chrysocoma pilosa J.F.Gmel., Lacinaria langloisii Greene, Lacinaria pycnostachya Kuntze, Liatris bebbiana Rydb., Liatris brachystachya Nutt., Liatris hirsutissima Poir. ex Steud., Liatris langloisii (Greene) Cory, Liatris linaria Raf., Liatris pycnostachya f. alba Waterf., Liatris pycnostachya f. hubrichti E.S.Anderson, Anonymos pilosa Walter
Synonyms of Liatris pycnostachya var. lasiophylla (2) (Updated on 12-23-21 from POWO): Lacinaria serotina Greene, Liatris serotina K.Schum.
Liatris pycnostachya Michx. is the accepted scientific name for the Prairie Blazing Star. It was named and described as such by André Michaux in Flora Boreali-Americana in 1803.
Accepted Infraspecific Names (2) Updated on 12-23-21) from POWO): Liatris pycnostachya var. lasiophylla Shinners, *Liatris pycnostachya var. pycnostachya (autonym). *When an infraspecific taxon is named, an autonym (“type-specimen”) is automatically generated whose description is closest to the (original) species. All have their own list of synonyms.
As of 2-11-22 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 39 species in the Liatris genus. It is a member of the plant family Asteraceae with 1,677 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO. The number of genera in the family fluctuates quite often.
The map on iNaturalist shows where members have made observations. Anyone can join and it is a great website to confirm and share your observations. The maps on iNaturalist are continually updated as members post new observations. Observations that become research-grade have been agreed on by other members.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING AND TO HELP WITH A POSITIVE ID.
I found this Liatris pycnostachya (Prairie Blazing Star) along a back road south of town on 7-22-21. I knew it was a Liatris and thought it could be Liatris spicata since they are also a native of Missouri. I posted photos on iNaturalist and a member pointed out it was Liatris pycnostachya. I checked the page for that species on Missouri Plants and a few other sites and realized he was correct. Sometimes I see Liatris growing along the highway but I haven’t stopped to take photos.
Liatris pycnostachya is an herbaceous perennial that grows to around 48” tall from corms. Their preference is full sun in fairly fertile soil and can be found in a variety of habitats as well as flower gardens. Many Liatris species look very similar but this one has recurved bracts surrounding the flowers, more dense flowers, and barbed pappus bristles on the seeds (some other species have plumose pappus bristles). The Missouri Plants website (see link below and above) lists 8 species of Liatris in the state of Missouri. Common names for this species include Prarie Blazing Star, Tall Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather, Cattail Gayfeather, Button Snakeroot, and possibly others.
Information online says Liatris are drought tolerant once established but seedlings and transplants are vulnerable… Makes me wonder how they can survive in full sun next to the fencerow where I found them. I remember a few years ago I found a good-sized colony along a highway north of town in full bloom. I had never seen them there before or since…
Central stems, normally erect, are covered with hairs (pubescent, hirsute) at least on the upper half. Stems also have longitudinal ridges (striate).
Numerous leaves grow in an alternate manner along the stems, up to 10” long x 1/2” wide, and get progressively smaller as they grow up the stems. The leaves are sessile (no stalks), can be smooth (glabrous), slightly hairy (pubescent), or somewhat rough (scabrous). Leaves are eaten by rabbits, groundhogs, deer, and livestock…
The stem terminates in a long spike of numerous flowerheads with 5-10 flowers each. The flowers have no ray florets (petals). Disc flowers have 5-lobed pinkish corolla tubes, 5 stamens, and brownish-purple anthers. Flowers are subtended by recurved bracts (phyllaries, calyces). The flowers are primarily pollinated by long-tongued bees, butterflies, and skippers.
Hopefully, I will find the Liatris pycnostachya again in 2022 so I can take more photos. Close-ups of the flowers would be GREAT!
I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and other areas. My farm is in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County (Henry County is across the street and Benton and Johnson aren’t far away). I have grown over 500 different plants and identified over 200 species of wildflowers (most have pages listed on the right side of the page). I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing, and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a few horticulturalists I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.
I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky.
FOR FURTHER READING:
PLANTS OF THE WORLD ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
INTERNATIONAL PLANT NAMES INDEX (GENUS/SPECIES)
FLORA OF NORTH AMERICA (GENUS/SPECIES)
WORLD FLORA ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
USDA PLANTS DATABASE
USDA PLANT GUIDE
MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN
ARKANSAS NATIVE PLANT SOCIETY
KANSAS WILDFLOWERS AND GRASSES
NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY
LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER
FRIENDS OF THE WILDFLOWER GARDEN
NOTE: The data (figures, maps, accepted names, etc.) may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates. Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. Some of the links may use a name that is a synonym on other sites. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates “at least” once a year and when I write new pages or add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂