Liatris ligulistylis (Northern Plains Blazing Star)

Plant Info
Also known as: Northern Plains Gayfeather, Rocky Mountain Blazing Star, Meadow Blazing Star
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: indistinct Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] 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: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dry seed with a tuft of light brown hair to carry it off in the wind.


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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More photos

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.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Pat - Meeker co
on: 2011-01-28 01:10:39

I found these in bloom this summer in native prairie by the railroad track. The Monarch butterflies seemed to be intoxicated in swarms over them. They should be in everyones garden.

Posted by: Julie G - Jackson
on: 2017-09-08 09:23:31

Growing on a sunny hillside with grasses and some yellow cone flowers-very beautiful this fall!

Posted by: Molly Stoddard - Fergus Falls
on: 2020-08-24 16:18:48

Blooms at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls, Otter Tail County

Posted by: Hanko - Wright Co. (Buffalo)
on: 2020-08-27 16:56:11

We have them growing here, first bloom from plantings last Spring. Monarch magnet.

Posted by: Susan Gangl - St. Paul
on: 2021-06-30 06:52:57

Across the street, a neighbor has a wilderness of varied plants. While it's not the most attractive yard in front, there is a row of what I am sure are Blazing Star Liatris in front of his house, and I have never seen so many Monarch butterflies!!!

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