Liatris spicata (blazing star). This Asteraceae is native to eastern North America where its natural habitats are wet depression in prairies and sedge meadows. Lurie Garden’s plant palette contains two blazing stars: L. spicata with red-purple flowers and L. spicata ‘Alba‘ with creamy white flowers.
Blazing star add a strong vertical structure to the garden with a small footprint, with plants often growing to 1.2 m (4 ft) in height and 0.5 m (1.5 ft) wide. Interestingly, finding 1.8 m (6 ft) tall specimens of L. spicata in the wild is not uncommon. Blazing star grows best when planted in free-draining soils and full-sun. Plants grown in rich, heavily fertilized garden soils often become top-heavy during flowering and will require staking. Liatris spicata tolerates drought, clay soils, and summer heat and humidity.
Blazing star can be slow to establish in the garden, but the wait is well rewarded with tall spires of red-purple (L. spicata) or creamy white (L. spicata ‘Alba’) flowers borne from clumping tufts of grass-like leaves. The flowers of blazing star attract a myriad of insects and pollinators–butterflies, hummingbirds, native bees, bumblebees, and honeybees. In the late fall and winter, birds feast on the seed of L. spicata.
Liatris spicata can be distinguished from Liatris pycnostachya (prairie blazing star) by the fact that the tiny leaflets (bracts) surrounding the base of the flower buds lie smooth along the bud rather than curve off of it as in L. pycnostachya.
|Botanical Name||Liatris spicata|
|Common Name||blazing star|
|USDA Zone||3 thru 8|
|Light Requirement||Full Sun|
|Season(s) of interest||summer, fall, winter|
|Height and Spread||2-4ft x 0.75-1.5ft (60-120cm x 22-45cm)|
|Attracts Wildlife||Provides Food for Birds, Hosts Caterpillars of Butterflies/Moths, Attracts Pollinators,|
|Additional Information||Native to Chicago Region.|
|Location in Lurie Garden||Southwest Light Plate, Southeast Light Plate, Northeast Light Plate, Northwest Light Plate|