Rough Blazing Star (Rough Gayfeather)

Liatris aspera
Asteraceae (daisies)

Perennial with an unbranched stalk. Flowerheads many, evenly spaced along a spikelike upper stalk, rose-purple. Involucral bracts (overlapping leaflike structures at the base of each flowerhead) rounded, somewhat spreading, appearing pouched or swollen, mostly with broad, thin, pale to transparent margins that look unevenly torn and are sometimes strongly purplish-tinged. Heads have 14–30 disk florets. Blooms August-November. Leaves alternate, the lowest to 15 inches long with a petiole, the upper ones much shorter, becoming sessile and narrowly lance-shaped. Rootstock a round corm.

Similar species: There are 9 species of Liatris recorded for Missouri, and many of these have been known to hybridize where they occur in the same vicinity. To distinguish between the various species and hybrids, one should be prepared to note details of the flower structure, such as the involucral bracts described above.

Height: 2–3 feet; taller under favorable conditions.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in upland and loess hill prairies, glades, exposed ledges and tops of bluffs, savannas, openings of upland forests, and rarely banks of streams; also pastures, railroads, and roadsides.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Scattered nearly statewide, although apparently absent from the Southeast Lowlands. Cultivated potentially statewide.
Human connections: 
Liatris species are some of the showier plants used in native wildflower gardens and many are available at native plant nurseries. One species, L. spicata, is commonly found at garden centers and is often used in arrangements by florists. Liatris have a long history of medicinal usage, too.
Ecosystem connections: 
A wide variety of insects visit the flowers, and birds feed on the seeds. The sweet, thickened rootstocks are relished by voles and other herbivorous mammals. Blazing stars are an important (and showy) part of the complex community of plants in the tallgrass prairie.
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