Liatris – better known by its common name, the blazing star flower – is a genus of about 37 species in the extensive asteraceae family. These blossoms are native to areas of the Bahamas and Mexico, but may be seen growing in abundance in the eastern portions of the United States. These flowers burst forth from feathery stalks that grow up to 4 feet in height. The heads of these blossoms are made up entirely of disc florets, and – unlike many other blooms – have no ray flowers, and develop in hues of white, rosy purple or fuchsia. Growing these flowers may take some patience, as they can take two to three years to become fully established, and they blossom their best in full sunlight, and moist, fertile soil.
The blazing star flower is considered a terrific garden plant, not only because of its beautiful and unusual appearance, but because it adds a splash of color to more muted blossoms when used as a border plant. It is also considered very enticing to splendid insect life, such as Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies, as well as bees – who serve to pollinate the plant. While these flowers may attract insects, they are often avoided by deer and rabbits, as their bitter flavor is unappealing to these animals – which is yet another reason why they are most commonly planted at garden borders. Certain species of the blazing star flower – liatris scariosa, liatris squarrosa and liatris odoratissima, to name a few – are thought to have some mild medicinal properties. For example, these plants are said to treat painful or delayed menstruation; they can be boiled and gargled to treat sore throats, or swallowed to help relieve colic, back pains and weakness. These plants also act as a diuretic and stimulant. Despite their medicinal properties, many people feel that the consumption of some species should be avoided. One such example is that of liatris spicata, which has an enticing vanilla scent, but has been banned as an additive, as some studies have shown that it may be toxic. Other species, such as the liatris ohlingerae, are considered endangered and are protected by their regions of growth – in this case, Florida.
As a symbol, the blazing star flower is said to be representative of satisfaction, bliss and happiness. These blossoms are frequently given as romantic gifts to express the joy that the giver feels in their relationship with the recipient. They are often given on anniversaries, Valentine’s Day or other special, romantic occasions.