Sunday, November 6, 2022

Grassleaf blazing star - Liatris elegantula

Grassleaf (Shaggy) blazing star (Liatris elegantula) is an upland member of this decidedly abundant Florida genus, common to sandhill and xeric oak uplands in most of the north Florida counties and south along the Gulf Coast to Citrus County.  It also has been vouchered from nearly all of Georgia and Alabama and is reported from a few counties in extreme eastern Mississippi.  This, like nearly every member of this genus, is a perennial herbaceous species that dies back to the ground in late fall and reemerges again in spring. It is reported to prefer moist, but well-drained soils.

The leaves are simple and nearly linear, alternate along the stem and are without the "hairs" found in many other species such as L. savannensis and L. gracilis.  The simple flowering stalk reaches its mature height of about 3 feet by August and the blooms open from the top of the stalk downwards for the next 2-3 weeks.  The flower buds are sessile (without a stalk) and are slightly hairy.  Like most members of this genus, the flowers are lavender and attract the attention of a great diversity of pollinators.  

Florida is home to 19 species of blazing stars, but only a few are grown commercially by native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Grassleaf blazing star is one of the many that I have not seen offered.  Blazing stars are easy to propagate from mature seed collected in late fall and sown immediately just below the soil surface in flats.  As all blazing stars are beautiful additions to a pollinator garden, more species, like this one, should be made available in the future.

These photos were taken by my friend, Lily Byrd, and shared by permission.

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