Liatris ligulistylis (Northern Plains Blazing Star)
|Also known as:||Northern Plains Gayfeather, Rocky Mountain Blazing Star|
|Habitat:||sun; moist to average soil; prairies, meadows, streambanks, clearings, roadsides, ditches|
|Bloom season:||August - September|
|Plant height:||12 to 40 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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A loose raceme on the upper stem of rounded, pinkish purple, stalked flower heads ¾ to 1 inch across. Heads number from 1 to 40 (typically 3 to 10), with 30 to 100 flowers per head. Stalks can be as short as ¼ inch but more often 1 inch or longer. The individual flowers are tubular with 5 pointed lobes and a long, thread-like, divided style protruding from the center. The floral bracts are in 4 or 5 layers, round to spatula-shaped with a rounded tip, often purplish on the outer edges with a transparent border, jagged and rolled under some around the edges but flattening with age. Like all blazing stars, the flowers first open at the top of the stem and progress down.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are simple and mostly alternate, 3 to 10 inches long and up to 1½ inches wide, toothless, variously covered with very short white hairs. Basal and the lowest stem leaves are stalked and oblong-elliptic to oblong spatulate, withering away by flowering. Leaves become progressively smaller up the stem, becoming shorter and more lance linear until about mid-stem, where they reduce dramatically to nearly bract-like size on the upper stem. Stems are unbranched, often deep red, with sparse to dense short hairs.
One of 5 Blazing Star species native to Minnesota, both its range distribution and habitat preferences overlap to some degree with all four others and may be encountered in close approximation with any of them. But only one requires closer inspection to distinguish it from L. ligulistylis. Rough Blazing Star (L. aspera) has similar, large round heads in a tall loose spike, but its heads are essentially stalkless, though infrequenly a few in the spike may have a stalk ¼ inch or less. Also the outer edges of its floral bracts are more reflexed inward, a characteristic most noticeable on unopened flower buds, and L. aspera prefers drier conditions than L. ligulistylis.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Rice Creek Trail Regional Park, Ramsey County, and Helen Allison SNA, Anoka County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.
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