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Liatris pycnostachya (Prairie blazing star)
Fannon, Carolyn

Liatris pycnostachya

Liatris pycnostachya Michx.

Prairie Blazing Star, Prairie Gayfeather, Prairie Liatris, Kansas Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather, Kansas Liatris, Cat-tail Blazing Star, Cat-tail Gayfeather, Cat-tail Liatris, Hairy Button-snakeroot

Asteraceae (Aster Family)


USDA Symbol: lipy

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

The stems of this showy perennial are 2-5+ ft. tall, and nearly half of this is the flower spike. A spike of rayless, rose-purple (rarely white), cylindrical, stalkless flower heads densely crowded on a coarse, hairy, very leafy stem. Stamens and styles protrude from the purple, tufted flower heads, creating a fuzzy appearance. Flowers bloom from the top of the spike downward. The lower portion of the stem is covered with short, fuzzy, grass-like leaves.

One of the most popular of the blazing stars, this is sometimes grown as an ornamental. The species name, from the Greek for "crowded," describes both the leaves and the flower heads. A species found in dry prairies, Dotted Blazing Star (L. punctata), has leaves covered with resinous dots and long, pointed, flat bracts beneath the flower heads.


From the Image Gallery

109 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Size Notes: Up to about 6 feet tall, often shorter.
Leaf: Green
Flower: Flowers in 8 inch spikes
Fruit: Fruit is a cypsela (pl. cypselae). Though technically incorrect, the fruit is often referred to as an achene.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Pink , Purple
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov , Dec


USA: AR , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MI , MN , MO , MS , ND , NE , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , SD , TX , WI
Native Distribution: WI to SD, s. to LA & e. TX
Native Habitat: Prairies; rocky, open areas; bluffs

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Drought Tolerance: High
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist, well-drained soils. Rocky, Sandy, Sandy Loam, preferably of poor quality.
Conditions Comments: One of the few Liatris species that grows well in very moist soils.


Use Ornamental: Showy, Wildflower meadow, Pocket prairie, Rock gardens, Perennial garden
Use Wildlife: Butterflies frequent Liatris spp. Nectar-Bees, Nectar-Butterflies, Nectar-insects
Use Other: This blazing star makes an excellent cut flower, blooming in top-down order.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Butterflies

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Scarified seeds may be sown outside in late fall or stored, stratified and sown the following spring. These plants produce a large amount of seed so storing the seed in paper bags in the refrigerator after collection and sowing in early spring offers good results as well. When sowing ex-situ, germination usually occurs within 20-25 days. The optimum temperature range is 55-75 degrees F in well drained soil. Barely cover the seed with growing media and reduce soil temperature at night.
Seed Collection: Wait until the flower heads on the entire stalk have turned fluffy tan before collecting. Bring the stalks inside to air-dry then shake or brush the nutlets from the heads. Seeds can be stored with chaff in paper bags or envelopes in the refrigerator.
Seed Treatment: Scarification (lightly nick with knife, use rock tumbler or boiling water) and moist stratification (3 months at 40 degrees).
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Order seed of this species from Native American Seed and help support the Wildflower Center.

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College, The - Valhalla, NY
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Liatris pycnostachya in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Liatris pycnostachya in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Liatris pycnostachya


Record Modified: 2022-12-29
Research By: TWC Staff

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