Description & Overview

Dense Blazing Star is an upright, late-summer blooming Wisconsin native perennial that boasts fluffy, purple, button-like flowers on spikes, raised above grass-like foliage. Flowers bloom from the top of the spike to the bottom. It is also an absolute favorite of many pollinators, especially Monarch butterflies during the start of migration. Dense Blazing Star is a pollinator dynamo and coveted for its ability to support so many creatures. Dense Blazing Star may also be known as Marsh Blazing Star or Gayfeather.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 3-6 feet

Mature Spread: 1-2 feet

Growth Rate: Moderate

Growth Form: Clumping forming, upright, naturalizes

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Moderate to wet moisture, well - drained

Flower: Heads are ½" wide with 6 - 10 disk flowers, pink - purple, spike

Bloom Period: July – September

Foliage: Linear, grass - like, up to ¾" wide, up to 10" long

Fall Color: None

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Seed with fluffy pappus

Suggested Uses

Dense Blazing Star is a species of concern in Wisconsin and is native to a few counties scattered throughout the state, mostly concentrated in the south. In keeping with its other common name, Marsh Blazing Star, Dense Blazing Star prefers moist to wet soils; however, it can acclimate to drier soils and some drought. That said, to truly do well, they are best planted in moist to wet areas. There are other Blazing Stars that prefer dry-mesic prairie conditions such as Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera), Showy Blazing Star (Liatris ligulistylis), or Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya).

Dense Blazing Star is a great choice for many types of gardens. A pollinator powerhouse, it is a vital addition to any respectable pollinator garden. As a Monarch favorite, the same would be true for any butterfly garden. It is a host plant and a nectar plant valued by many insects and pollinators. Plant at least (10) together for maximum Monarch attraction! The tall, purple spikes add a nice vertical accent, and the vivid color makes any garden pop.

Dense Blazing Star would fit in seamlessly in any native residential landscaping intermingled with taller and shorter perennials. Plant it at the back of a mixed bed to bring vertical height and tremendous texture.
Use Dense Blazing Star as a cut flower! With their height and texture, they are great in a mixed bouquet to bring instant drama.

Dense Blazing Star is an upright, late-summer blooming Wisconsin native perennial that boasts fluffy, purple, button-like flowers on spikes, raised ab…

Wildlife Value

Dense Blazing Star is a host plant to Glorious Flower Moth (Schinia gloriosa), Three-lined Flower Moth (Schinia trifascia), Wavy-lined Emerald (Synchlora aerata), and Blazing Star Borer Moth (Carmenta antracipennis).

The main pollinators for Dense Blazing Star are bumblebees, long-horned bees, leaf-cutting bees, butterflies, and skippers, all of which collect both nectar and pollen. Although not considered main pollinators Green Sweat Bees, syrphid flies, and bee flies are also common visitors that both drink nectar and collect pollen.

Many other species visit solely for the nectar. The Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly (Speyeria cybele), Regal Fritillary Butterfly (Speyeria idalia), Hummingbird Clearwing moths (Hemaris thysbe), Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta), Common Wood Nymph butterflies (Cercyonis pegala), Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius), Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui), Monarchs butterflies (Danaus plexippus), Ottoe Skippers (Hesperia ottoe), Leonard’s Skippers (Hesperia leonardus), Yellow-collared Scape moth (Cisseps fulvicollis), Silver-spotted Skippers (Epargyreus clarus), and Common Branded Skippers (Hesperia comma) are all eager visitors. It is notably the Monarch’s preferred nectar-providing flower. Flowering later in the season, planting Dense Blazing Star will help provide fuel to migrating Monarchs.

Songbirds such as American Goldfinches, Black-capped Chickadees, and Tufted Titmice are attracted to Dense Blazing Star for the seeds, while Ruby-throated Hummingbirds visit for the nectar.

Mammalian herbivores will dine on the leaves, corms (roots), and stems. This includes rabbits, deer, voles, mice, groundhogs, and livestock.

Maintenance Tips

Adding a layer of mulch to your planting will help retain soil moisture. This may be especially helpful if the site is drier than its native habitat. Though Dense Blazing Star likes moist soil, avoid planting it in sites that may collect water in winter.

Birds love to eat the seeds so leave plants up over winter.

Divide plants every four years or so to provide space and air circulation.

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: No
Rabbit Resistant: No

Powdery Mildew, wilt, rot, or rust may be something to watch out for but is typically not serious. Site plants in an area with good air circulation, and leave spent plants over winter to allow for reseeding should rot take hold.

Dense Blazing Star is not tolerant of salt. Plant away from roadsides or anywhere salt may be used.
Mammalian herbivores will dine on the leaves, corms (roots), and stems.

Leaf Lore

The origin of the genus name Liatris is unknown; however, the specific epithet spicata means ‘bearing flowers in spikes’ which refers to the inflorescence of this species.

Indigenous peoples used Liatris spicata in many ways. In some reports, the corms were eaten when food was scarce. The Menominee used a compound decoction of the root for a weak heart while the Cherokee used it as an expectorant, diuretic, diaphoretic, carminative, analgesic, and stimulant.

Companion Plants

Companion plants in their native habitat (wetter prairie plants) would include Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana), Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum), Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis), Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Harlequin Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum), and Riddell’s Goldenrod (Solidago riddellii).

Dense Blazing Star is an upright, late-summer blooming Wisconsin native perennial that boasts fluffy, purple, button-like flowers on spikes, raised ab…
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Written by Beth DeLain