Botanical Name: Liatris spicata
Common Name: Dense Gayfeather, Dense Blazing Star, Marsh Blazing Star, Spiked Blazing Star
Description: Dense Gayfeather is an erect herbaceous perennial with striking spikes of rosy-purple flowers. In Florida, it occurs naturally in mesic to wet flatwoods, seepage slopes, bogs, savannas, and roadside ditches. It blooms late summer through fall and is an excellent attractor of butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects.
Dense gayfeather begins as a basal rosette of linear, grasslike leaves. Flower stalks and buds appear in summer. Once all the buds have formed, the blooms open from the top of the flower stalk down. Flowering spikes are slender, elongated (up to 2′ long) and, as the common name suggests, dense with flowers. Individual flowers are tubular, rayless, and without pedicels. Styles are extended and often slightly twisted. Stems are smooth and unbranched. Stem leaves are linear and alternately arranged. Fruits are tiny, inconspicuous achenes.
Grows best in moist to moderately dry, well-drained sandy soils with acidic to neutral pH. Sun to part sun. Quickly grows 1-5′ tall, including the flower spikes. Is drought tolerant after becoming established, but is also great in your rain garden.
Dense gayfeather is easy to grow and, once established, requires little maintenance. It will die back in the winter, but will persist through prolific self-seeding and by production of new underground corms. Because of its somewhat brief flowering period (typically 2–3 weeks), it is best used in a mixed planting, although it is also quite attractive in a mass planting. The flower spikes can make the plant top-heavy, so plant with other tall species, such as grasses, goldenrods and sunflowers that can help support the plant and keep it upright.
Not salt tolerant of inundation by salty or brackish water. Low/no tolerance of salty wind or direct salt spray.
This plant in 1-gallon containers is 1-3′ tall.
Plant Lore: Sixteen blazing star species are native to Florida. The species epithet, spicata, is from the Latin spicatus, meaning “bearing or resembling a spike.” The common name “gayfeather” refers to the feather-like appearance of the slender flowering spike.
Florida Hardiness Zones 8 – 11