An important plant in the fall during butterfly and hummingbird migrations, this perennial sometimes requires two years before making a bloom. Strong roots grow down as deep as 16 feet, and will easily cling to any poor, infertile, well-drained soil. Also makes a good cut flower. You will sometimes hear this wonderful perennial called Blazing Star. It is one of our most attractive late summer to fall bloomers across Texas. Many species are found along roadsides in various soils. (Not to be confused with the similar-looking, fussy hybrid found in many commercial floral arrangements, although the wild ones will stay pretty for a while if cut.) These native plants grow from a corm which may produce a few to many stalks forming a clump. The flower spikes stand one to three feet tall. Gayfeather makes a wonderful, long term, non-agressive plant. Each corm will live at least 6 years, with the proper conditions. They will re-seed themselves, so if you have put them in the right place, they will be with you for a long time! Don't over water though, as they will grow rank and fall over and the corm will rot. They do best in the company of other plants that don't like extra water. We've seen Gayfeather covered with butterflies in late summer and fall.
The Natives Are Friendly (written in October)
Finally, a breath of Fall fell across the Hill Country with the last cold front. The cool air reminded us that summer is winding down. Among the fading spring and summer blooms there is one wildflower that is making a dramatic show. Gayfeather, Liatris mucronata, has 1 to 3 ft tall flower spikes in vibrant purple. This late blooming perennial is an important plant for butterflies, bees, and birds. Migrating Humming birds depend on this late bloomer for nectar, and the Golden Finch and other song birds feast upon the seeds. In the fields here on the farm Black & Pipe vine Swallowtail butterflies can be seen hanging from the purple spikes in the early mornings. Gayfeather spends the first year developing deep roots, sometimes up to 16 feet long in deeper soils, and spires erupt upward from a corm that develops right underneath the surface. It might take up to two years for the flower spikes to appear but once established it flowers year after year. It will flower even in the poor soils along roadsides, but plant it in more fertile soils and the fall show will be even better. It is drought tolerant after it becomes established and prefers full sun and well drained soils. If the garden or wildflower meadow needs a little color this time of year then Gayfeather is the wildflower to plant. If planted in a garden, Gayfeather would make a wonderful focal point and the flower spikes make an excellent cut flower, for a fall arrangement. From weekend gardeners to wildlife enthusiasts Gayfeather’s purple display will meet the needs of both. Wherever it is needed Fall is the time to plant it.