Liatris spicata, a member of the family Asteraceae, is commonly known as dense gayfeather and marsh blazing star (Lady Bird Johnson 2013). The perennial L. spicata grows to about one meter in height and is valued for its spike of crowded purple flowers. A spike describes the arrangement of flowers found attached directly to the stem. In addition, the plant can be identified by its linear leaves found growing along the stem to the base of the flower spikes (Lady Bird Johnson 2013). Liatris spicata has been recorded in the following states: 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 and is listed as critically imperiled in Maryland and Delaware (Natureserve 2013).
Liatris spicata forms adventitious shoots from their cotyledons (embryonic leaves) and callus (cultured fragments taken from the cotyledons) (Stimart & Mather 1996: 154). Plant growth regulators will induce shoot (or stem) formation (Stimart & Mather 1996: 155). Medium supplemented with 22.2 µm of TDZ, a plant growth regulator, had the highest number of shoots per cotyledon (Stimart & Mather 1996: 154-155). Numbers of shoots per callus was greater (4.9 shoots per callus) with exposure to 4.4 µm of benzyladenine (BA) than with 2.2 µm TDZ (0.3 shoots per callus) (Stimart & Mather 1996: 155).
The purple-rose flower spikes are highly valued in the horticultural industry (Parks & Boyle 2002: 202). The effects of stratification (10 week incubation with moistened paper) and growth hormones (BA thiourea, and gibberellic acid) on seed germination were investigated at the University of Massachusetts (Parks & Boyle 2002: 202). Seed germination was 98% for the stratification treatment at 4 °C for 10 weeks (Parks & Boyle 2002: 203). Germination success was up to 95% with BA mixed with acetone (Parks & Boyle 2002: 203). The study showed that at 4 °C stratification shortened the time for germination and the use of BA accelerated germination (Parks & Boyle 2002: 205).
Espinosa et al. (1991) tested corm sprouting and flowering of Liatris spicata. A corm is a small flattened underground bulb. The optimal temperature for corm sprouting and flowering was 20 °C (Espinosa et al. 1991: 28). The study also showed that it took less time for flowering to occur when the plants were kept at 20 °C (Espinosa et al. 1991: 29).
Medve (1985: 152) studied the effects of fire on root hairs and fungal mycorrhizae or mass of filaments associated with L. spicata from Pensylvania. Plants from the three treatments (two consecutive spring burns, one spring burn, and area not burned) retained mycorrhizae and showed no significant differences in root hairs (Medve 1985: 153). Adaptation to fires may explain the results (Medve 1985: 154).
Espinosa I., Healy W. & Roh M. 1991. The role of temperature and photoperiod on Liatris spicata shoot development. Journal of American society of horticulture 116:27-29.
Lady Bird Johnson. 2013. Liatris spicata. Available at: http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=LISP; accessed on: November 15, 2013.
Medve, R. 1985. The effect of fire on the root hairs and mycorrhizae of Liatris Spicata. Ohio Journal of Science 85: 151-154.
NatureServe Explorer. 2013. Available at: http://www.natureserve.org; accessed on: November 15, 2013.
Parks C. A. & Boyle T. H. 2002. Germination of Liatris spicata (L.) Willd. seed is enhanced by stratification, Benzyladenine, or Thiourea but not Gibberellic acid. HortScience 37:202-205.
Stimart, D. P., Mather J. C. 1996. Regenerating adventitious shoots from in vitro cultur of Liatris spicata (l.) Willd. cotyledons. HortScience 31: 154-155.
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Localities documented in Tropicos sources
United States (North America)
Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
- Anonymous. 1986. List-Based Rec., Soil Conserv. Serv., U.S.D.A. Database of the U.S.D.A., Beltsville. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1103
- Gleason, H. A. 1968. The Sympetalous Dicotyledoneae. vol. 3. 596 pp. In H. A. Gleason Ill. Fl. N. U.S. (ed. 3). New York Botanical Garden, New York. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1707
- Godfrey, R. K. & J. W. Wooten. 1981. Aquatic Wetland Pl. S.E. U.S. Dicot. 933 pp. Univ. Georgia Press, Athens. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1711
- Cronquist, A. J. 1980. Asteraceae. 1: i–xv, 1–261. In Vasc. Fl. S.E. U. S. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1714
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Flower-Visiting Insects of Marsh Blazingstar in Illinois
(Long-tongued bees suck nectar or collect pollen; short-tongued bees collect pollen only; Syrphid flies and beetles feed on pollen; other insects suck nectar; all observations are from Graenicher.)
Apidae (Bombini): Bombus auricomus sn cp, Bombus griseocallis sn cp, Bombus pensylvanica sn cp; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes agilis sn cp, Melissodes trinodis sn cp; Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile addenda sn cp, Megachile latimanus sn cp
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon texanus texanus cp
Bombyliidae: Exoprosopa fasciata sn; Syrphidae: Eristalis tenax fp, Sphaerophoria contiqua fp
Pieridae: Colias philodice sn, Pieris rapae sn; Nymphalidae: Boloria selene myrina sn, Cercyonis pegala sn, Danaus plexippus sn, Speyeria cybele sn, Speyeria idalia sn
Hesperiidae: Polites peckius sn, Polites themistocles sn
Noctuidae: Mythimna unipuncta sn
Cantharidae: Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus fp
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Liatris spicata
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Liatris spicata
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
It is commonly grown in gardens for its showy purple flowers (pink or white in some cultivars). All spikes of purple flowers appear in July and August.
Native to moist prairies and sedge meadows. It thrives in full sun in ordinary garden soil. Excellent for attracting birds and butterflies.
Liatris spicata is a garder flower in many countries around the world. It goes under many names. Button snakewort, Kansas gay feather, Blazing star, Liatris callilepis are used in the UK.
The white cultivar goes by the name liatris alba.
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A geographic disjunction within Liatris spicata occurs between the coastal plain element (var. resinosa) and the inland/montane element (var. spicata), although plants morphologically referable to var. resinosa occasionally are encountered in montane North Carolina and Tennessee and var. spicata-like plants occur in the range of var. resinosa. Apparent intergrades between the two taxa are common, especially in Tennessee and Alabama. The geographical gap is widest in Georgia and Alabama. Neither variety occurs naturally west of the Mississippi River, except for a historical record of var. spicata in Oregon County, Missouri (Kellogg s.n., MO), where the population has now been genetically "swamped" by L. pycnostachya (G. A. Yatskievych, pers. comm.).
In both var. spicata and var. resinosa, marked variation (dimorphism) in head size occurs, the large-headed plants apparently occurring in scattered geographic enclaves without a broader geographic pattern. It seems possible that independent populational origins of polyploidy might underlie the variation.