Family: Asteraceae (Sunflower)
Scientific Name: Liatris punctata
Perennial herb of prairies and native pastures. Dry, course soils.
Watch for: Purple star-shaped flowers arranged in spikelike groups at the ends of stems. Leaves dotted and narrow, up to 15 cm long, closely spaced and arching upward, with a solid smooth feel. 1/4′ to 2 3/4′ tall.
Other names: Dotted Blazing Star, Gayfeather, Button Snakeroot, Starwort.
History: Blazing Star is a native plant of pastures with a large root mass of up to 16′ deep in light soils. The Lakota use it for many things, such as pulverizing the roots to improve appetite. For heart pains, they powder the entire plant and make a tea. The Potawatomis applied it topically to treat scabies. The Kiowa gather the roots in the spring when they were sweet and baked them over a fire for food. The roots were also found to cure snake bite, giving it the name of Snakeroot. In it’s Anglo-American history, the root was found to make an effective cough syrup when mixed with honey. It was found to stimulate the kidneys and has been used for dropsies (edema). Sheep would enjoy grazing on it, as well as wild animals such as deer and antelope.
Tidbits: Liatris is ironically grown commercially in green houses in Europe, then exported to florists in the United States as a popular addition to flower arrangements and winter bouquets. Flowers picked in their prime and dried in the sun will retain their color.
Gardens/Cultivation: Liatris is very drought tolerant and grows well in a sunny location. In a raingarden, it does best in places where water flooding is short and seldom. It blooms in late summer and early fall, providing a lasting color late into the season for flower gardens. This also makes it great for cut and dried flowers. It’s also effective with attracting birds, especially finches in the late summer/ early fall.
Kindscher, Kelly. Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie: An Ethnobotanical Guide.University Press of Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas, 1992.