Blazing Star Wildfloweror

Blazing Star Wildfloweror

Blazing Star Wildflower

Each year the wildflower meadow at Badlands National Park welcomes millions of visitors to marvel at the endless sea of star-shaped wildflowers. But in 1987, these flowers turned the attention of citizen scientists and a newsletter writer named Hugh MacMillan. And that’s when the swarms started.Prairie blazing star is a perennial native wildflower with a hairy, unbranched stalk and a spike of many densely crowded, rose-purple flowerheads. A signature wildflower of the tallgrass prairie, it is sometimes seen in the thousands. The rootstock is a globe-shaped corm.


Blazing stars are the host plants for some nifty species of noctuid flower moths. Flower moths are named because their caterpillars eat the flower buds and developing seeds of their host plants. The females deposit eggs onto the host plants. The beautifully pink bleeding flower moth (Schinia sanguinea) is limited to Liatris species and can survive on nothing else. The caterpillars are rosy pink to camouflage them against their pink-flowering larval food plants. The adults are also rosy pink to camouflage them against the flowers as they rest and deposit eggs on these flowers. Caterpillars of the three-lined flower moth, S. trifascia, also feed on a variety of plants in the eupatorium tribe, including false boneset, Joe-Pye weeds, and blazing stars.Many native prairie plants have roots that penetrate deep into the soil, and blazing stars are no exception. Prairie blazing star is an excellent example: its roots can easily reach 10 to 12 feet below the surface!

This enables the plants to reach life-giving moisture and survive in hot, dry, competitive environments. Over thousands of years, the presence of countless deep-rooted prairie plants built up the rich, fertile soils of the Great Plains. Before European settlement, more than a third of Missouri was covered by native tallgrass prairie.Prairie blazing star was involved in Missouri's apparent loss of our last known native population of dense blazing star. The only known Missouri native site for dense blazing star was at an upland prairie in Oregon County, near Bardley, Missouri (close to the border with Arkansas). Although that population of dense blazing star lived there in the 1930s, prairie blazing star has become common at the site, and the two species have hybridized extensively. At this point, genetically pure dense blazing star apparently no longer exists there. Thus as a Missouri species of conservation concern, dense blazing star, Liatris spicata, is listed as extirpated. (Source: mdc.mo.gov)



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