Rough Blazing Star (Rough Gayfeather)

Closeup side view of rough blazing star flowerhead
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Scientific Name
Liatris aspera
Asteraceae (daisies)

Rough blazing star is an upright perennial with an unbranched stalk. Flowerheads many, evenly spaced along a spikelike upper stalk, rose-purple. Involucral bracts (overlapping leaflike structures at the base of each flowerhead) rounded, somewhat spreading, appearing pouched or swollen, mostly with broad, thin, pale to transparent margins that look unevenly torn and are sometimes strongly purplish-tinged. Heads have 14–30 disk florets. Blooms August–November. Leaves alternate, the lowest to 15 inches long with a petiole, the upper ones much shorter, becoming sessile and narrowly lance-shaped. Rootstock a round corm.

Similar species: There are 9 species of Liatris recorded for Missouri, and many of these have been known to hybridize where they occur in the same vicinity. To distinguish between the various species and hybrids, one should be prepared to note details of the flower structure, such as the involucral bracts described above.

Height: 2–3 feet; taller under favorable conditions.
Where To Find
image of Rough Blazing Star Rough Gayfeather distribution map
Scattered nearly statewide, although apparently absent from the Southeast Lowlands. Cultivated potentially statewide.
Occurs in upland and loess hill prairies, glades, exposed ledges and tops of bluffs, savannas, openings of upland forests, and rarely banks of streams; also pastures, railroads, and roadsides.
Liatris species are some of the showier plants used in native wildflower gardens and many are available at native plant nurseries. One species, L. spicata, is commonly found at garden centers and is often used in arrangements by florists. Liatris have a long history of medicinal usage, too.
A wide variety of insects visit the flowers, and birds feed on the seeds. The sweet, thickened rootstocks are relished by voles and other herbivorous mammals. Blazing stars are an important (and showy) part of the complex community of plants in the tallgrass prairie.
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Similar Species

Where to See Species

Spring Creek Gap Conservation Area is in Maries County, approximately 10 miles southeast of Vienna and 14 miles north of Rolla on old Highway 63.
This 3,451 acre area is approximately one-third bottomland and upland forest and woodland. The remainder is comprised of cropland, grassland, wetland and old field type habitats.
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!