2022 Wildflower of the Year - Liatris punctata - Dotted Blazingstar
Found throughout Kansas, this erect perennial from the sunflower (Asteraceae) family grows with multiple, stiff, unbranched stems up to 2.5 feet tall. Its preferred habitat is well-drained, dry upland prairie where it thrives best when in lower competition from tall grasses. Extreme drought tolerance is thanks to a perennial taproot that can reach a depth of 15 feet. One report from J.E. Weaver’s 1968 book, Prairie Plants and their Environment documented that a dotted blazing star root crown ring count showed it was 35 years old.
The purple inflorescences of dotted blazing star are among the most stunning wildflowers of late summer. Clusters of four to eight rose-purple flowers blooming in August and September consist of only disk florets, with ray florets absent. Pollinated flowers create black, ribbed ¼” conical-shaped achene fruits with a parachute-like pappus to aid in wind dispersal.
“Blazing star” is named for the spike of purple flowers and “dotted” is in reference to the small glands dotting the leaves and bracts of this species. “Punctate” is a botanical term for translucent dots.
Nectar from these flowers attracts many species of butterflies, bees, and flies. The blooming of dotted blazing star is notably timed with the annual southern migration of the nectar-seeking monarch butterfly. The leaves and stems of dotted blazing star are palatable to cattle and this species becomes greatly reduced on prairies that are heavily grazed.
The showy flowers of dotted blazing star make this species an easy choice for planting in any full-sun flower bed. The purple splashes of color pair nicely with the yellows of goldenrod in late summer. Liatris punctata also has the appealing landscaping traits of a short stature to fit in smaller gardens, non-aggressive seed reproduction, a different flowering time compared to other popular garden Liatris species including L. aspera and L. pycnostachya, and an attractive fluffy, wand-like stem texture in fall before seeds begin to disperse.
These line drawings are from Dwight Platt and Lorna Harder’s 1997 publication Growing Native Wildflowers. To see more Liatris punctata photos by Michael Haddock and a detailed species description, visit www.kswildflower.org.