Liatris spicata, Dense Blazing Star

Liatris is both a butterfly favorite and a garden favorite worth planting in masses.


In cultivation, Liatris can grow into dense clumps in average (mesic) soils. In the wild, it prefers moist well-drained soils that do not stand wet during the winter. It creates a beautiful border with distinctive foliage and a dramatic vertical form with vivid purple flower spikes. As Wikipedia points out, Liatris tolerates shade and drought, “but need regular watering during the first growing season to build strong roots.”


Liatris is such a prolific nectar producer it is sometimes called butterfly candy. It attracts many pollinators and beneficial insects. Not favored by deer, but the foliage is eaten by groundhogs, rabbits, and voles.

Human Uses

Liatris spicata was historically used medicinally by Native Americans for its carminativediuretic, stimulant, sudorific, and expectorant properties. In addition to these uses, the Cherokee used the plant as an analgesic for pain in the back and limbs and the Menominee used it for a “weak heart.” The root of the plant is the part most often used. Native Americans also used the plant to treat swelling, abdominal pain and spasms/colic, and snake bites. Currently, the plant is used for a sore throat by gargling an infusion, as an herbal insect repellent, and in potpourri.” (Wikipedia, 2023)


Scientific Name

Liatris spicata

Other names: Blazing Star, Blazing Stars, Dense Button Snakeroot, Gayfeather, Marsh Blazing Star, Sessile-headed Blazing Star, Snakeroot, Spike Gayfeather

Family: Asteraceae.

Native Status

Native to Floyd County

Native Range Map (Virginia Counties) for Liatris spicata

Source: Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora

Native to Eastern North America, from the Midwest to the East Coast, eastern and western Canada.

Other Floyd County native Liatris: Liatris pilosa, Liatris virgata.

Culture Notes

Height: 3-5 ft, Spacing guide: 1’-2’. Bloom Color: Purple. Bloom Time: Late Summer (Jul-Aug). Light: Full sun to part shade. Moisture: Medium to wet (mesic to hydric) conditions. Soils: Moist well-drained soil.


USDA Zones: 3-8. National Wetland Status Indicator: FAC. C-Value: 7. Successional Role: .

Virginia Ecology

Virginia Habitat: "Moist to wet meadows, clearings, riverside prairies, seeps, and outcrop barrens with periodic seepage; also in alternately wet-and-dry, shrink-swell hardpan soils. Infrequent in the mountains; rare in the Piedmont; often locally abundant where found." (The Flora, 2023). Virginia Natural Communities: None specified

Ecosystem Services

*Of Special Value to Native Bees, *Of Special Value to Bumblebees, *Monarch Butterfly Host & Nectar Plants, Nectar for Native Nectar-Feeders, Hummingbird Nectar Source

Wildlife Supported: Butterflies such as the monarch, tiger swallowtail, clouded sulphur, orange sulphur, gray hairstreak, Aphrodite fritillary, painted lady, red admiral, skippers, and wood nymphs; bumblebees, digger bees, long-horned bees, leaf-cutter bees; hummingbirds.


From "Scarified seeds may be sown outside in late fall or stored, stratified and sown the following spring. Some sources suggest spring seedlings will appear by simply laying the flowering stalk in an outdoor seedbed and covering with 1/2 in. of soil in the fall. 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 sealed, refrigerated containers. Seed Treatment: Scarification (lightly nick with knife) and stratification (3 months at 40 degrees)." Seed Germination: C60 - 60 days cold moist stratification required

Where to Buy

Wood Thrush Natives, Prairie Moon Nursery, Prairie Nursery