Liatris pycnostachya Prairie Blazingstar, Kansas Gayfeather 
(lee-AH-tris  pick-no-STAKE-ee-uh)

Easyliving Native Perennial Wildflowers Native Wild Flower Seed and Plants
for Home Landscaping and Prairie Restoration

Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather, Button Snakeroot flower picture Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather, Button Snakeroot flower picture Habitat Bloom Period Color Height Inches Moisture Plant Spacing Lifespan
Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather, Button Snakeroot flower picture Sun July and August Purple 30 to 60 Inches Dry to Moist 12 to 24 Inches Perennial

Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather Photo by cj

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Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather potted plants are available $5 each plus Boxing/Shipping. 
email with your zip code and number of plants for the correct shipping cost on potted plants.

 Liatris pycnostachya seed
  Prairie Blazing Star seed

number of seeds

approximate coverage
in square feet

1 packet -  $2.50 + shipping

150 30 sq ft

1 ounce --- $12.00

 10,600 500 sq ft

1 pound -$---- 

 169,600 8,000 sq ft

Seed shipping chart at bottom of page
Liatris pycnostachya
, Prairie Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather, or Button Snakeroot, grows 3 to 5 feet tall spikes of dense violet-lavender to rosy purple flower heads, which provide striking vertical form in the perennial garden.   Prairie Blazingstar is easily grown in average well-drained soils and full sun yet also tolerates poor soils, drought, and summer heat.  This plant looks well if planted in large sweeps in the meadow garden or individually in a formal garden.  The showy flower is used in both fresh cut and dried flower arrangements and is a magnet for butterflies. The attributes of this plant are accentuated when planted with Callirhoe (Poppy Mallow), Echinacea (Coneflowers), Zizia (Golden Alexander), Solidago (Golden Rod), and prairie grasses.

(Pycnostachya = Dense, crowded spike)

Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather seed germination is improved after a pretreatment of 4 to 6 weeks of cold moist stratification or when planted outside in the fall or early winter.

Native Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather is a striking plant occurring naturally on glades, bald knobs, meadows, dry upland prairies, and savannas from Ontario to Wisconsin and North Dakota, south to Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. . Asteraceae (Aster Family)


Prairie blazing star can be used for prairie restoration and landscaping, roadside plantings, wildlife food and habitat, wildflower gardens (because of its attractive flowers), and as a small component in seeding mixtures.


Prairie blazing star is a hardy, native perennial herb that grows from a tuber.  It is one of the most conspicuous of the prairie inhabitants, as its leafy stems grow erect to a height of 5 feet.  The narrow leaves on the lower two-thirds of the plant are so crowded that to the casual observer they may appear spiraled rather than closely alternate.  Lower leaves, up to 4 inches long and ½ inch wide, are larger than those further up the stems.  Both the leaves and stems usually display short, stiff hairs.

The top two-thirds of prairie blazing star is a spike of rose-purple, thistle-like flowers that are given a somewhat fuzzy appearance by extended white stamens (male flower parts) and pistils (female flower parts).  Flowering starts at the top of the spike and moves progressively downward.  Each flower head along the spike is made up of 5 to 12 tubular florets.  A dense circle of bracts (tiny, modified leaves) surrounds the base of each flower head.  The tips of these long, pointed bracts tend to spread and curve back toward their bases.  Bracts of this species may have a purplish tinge.

 All Liatris produce flowers in wand-like spikes or racemes.  Their flowers are produced in late summer and autumn.  They multiply by offsets from their cormlike base, or may be grown from seed, which should be sown in autumn.  They will grow and produce flowers in poorer soil than most garden plants, but thrive best in good, rich garden soil, and require no special care.  Liatris pycnostachya is one of the showiest species.  The slender seeds of Liatris are usually less than 1/4 inch long.  The seed narrows toward the base and is tipped with a set of soft bristles about as long as the seed itself.  There are 10 ribs or ridges running along the length of the seed.  Prairie blazing star seeds per pound average 131,000. 

Adaptation and Distribution

Prairie blazing star is found throughout the tall grass prairie biome, often in thick stands on damp prairies and open bottomlands from Minnesota and Wisconsin south.


Prepare a clean weed free seedbed by disking and harrowing or using chemical weed control.  Firm the seedbed by cultipacking.  Seedbed should be firm enough to allow seed to be planted ¼ inch deep.  For prairie restoration or diverse plantings for wildlife, prairie blazing star can be incorporated into seed mixes at a rate of 4 ounces pure live seed/acre.  Use unstratified seed in fall and stratified seed in the spring.  A seeder with a legume box works well in the seeding operation, although other types of seeders or drills maybe used.  Apply no fertilizer the establishment year unless a soil test indicates a severe deficiency of phosphorus and potassium.  Use no nitrogen during the establishment year as this can encourage weed competition.

Liatris pycnostachya Prairie Blazing Star seedling vigor is good and stands are comparatively easy to establish where competition is controlled.


During establishment, reduce weed competition by mowing above the height of the prairie blazing star or using approved herbicides.  In established stands, prescribed burning may be appropriate where plant vigor declines or where invader species threaten native mix stands.

 Environmental Concerns

Prairie blazing star is not considered weedy or invasive and has not been noted spreading to adjoining areas.  Seedlings have not been noted spreading from original plantings or if they do spread, the rate of spread is not alarming.

The map below shows areas where native Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather grow wild but it can be planted and will grow over a much wider area than shown.  USDA plant hardiness zones 3 to 9.

Liatris pycnostachya
Prairie Blazing Star


New Jersey
New York

North Dakota
South Dakota

State Distributional Map for liatris pycnostachya, prairie blazing star, gayfeather wild flower seed

Use the chart below for shipping charges on Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather flower and our other native wildflower seeds

to order copy and mail the order form
email questions, comments and orders to 

email with your zip code and number of plants for shipping charges and availability on potted plants

We accept payment by check, money order, and through Paypal

The minimum seed order amount is $10, this can be a combination of different seeds.

subtotal for flower seeds 

shipping charge for seeds

seed orders up to  $20.00    =  

 $4.00 shipping

$20.01 - $50.00    =  

 $6.00 shipping

$50.01-$100.00    =  

 $7.50 shipping

over $100.00    =    7.5 % of subtotal


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Easyliving Wildflowers
PO Box  522
Willow Springs,  MO.  65793
Phone 417-469-2611 

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Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie Blazing Star, Kansas Gayfeather  Plant distribution map complements of USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1
  ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
















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Alternate Names
Tall gayfeather, prairie gayfeather, blazing star, prairie blazing star, and hairy button snakeroot, Kansas gayfeather
Cattle graze thickspike gayfeather and it is considered a decreaser in pastures under heavy grazing pressure (Menhusen 1973). Thickspike is a particularly beautiful member of the genus Liatris with its height and large sized flowering spike. These flowering spikes make long lasting cut flowers since the heads will proceed to open just as if they were still on the plant. If the spike is air dried rapidly in the dark the flowering spike will retain much of its color and can be used in attractive dry plant arrangements.
Kindscher (1992) indicated that the corm of thickspike was used by Native Americans and others to treat gonorrhea. Art (1991) indicated that it could be used to treat kidney diseases. Birds use the seed for food and rodents eat the corms. Thickspike gayfeather can be used for roadside and park beautification, prairie restoration, wildlife cover and food, landscaping, and to increase plant diversity in natural and man made prairie communities.
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant‟s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).
General: Thickspike gayfeather belongs to the sunflower or composite family (Asteraceae). Liatris pycnostachya is a tall, hardy, native perennial herbaceous species that has spectacular magenta inflorescences. Single to multiple stems arise from a solid corm that is 7 to 10 cm in diameter and supports the plants deep, fibrous root (5 to 15 common) system. The simple non-branched stems are up to 1.5 meters tall. The species narrow, dark green leaves have a light colored mid-rib and are alternately arranged on the stem. The numerous basal leaves are the longest and they gradually shorten in length farther up the stem. Both stems and leaves normally display short, stiff hairs. The inflorescence is a long spike of sessile cylindrical heads 8 to 11 mm tall. The flower heads have 5 to 7 individual rose-purple flowers, each with 5 long, slender, pointed petals or bracts which tend to spread and curve back toward their bases. Bracts of this species may have a purplish tinge. The flowers are given a somewhat fuzzy appearance by extended white stamens (male flower parts) and pistils (female flower parts). The spike itself may be up to 60 cm of the stem length. The flowers bloom from the top down so flowering covers an extended period of time. The flowers are cross pollinated with bumble bees and native pollinators doing most of the work. The fruit of thickspike gayfeather is a narrow, brownish, 10 ribbed achene that is 5 to 6 mm long, with tufts of bristles longer than the achene attached to its upper end. The seed heads should be harvested in the fall after they appear dry and fluffy, but before they are blown away by the wind. There are 333,000 achenes per kg of seed or about 131,000 seed units per pound of thickspike gayfeather.
Distribution: For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site. This plant ranges from Kentucky to Minnesota and eastern North Dakota south from there to Louisiana and eastern Texas. It grows naturally in the eastern 1/3 of Kansas.
Habitat: Thickspike gayfeather grows best in low, moist, tallgrass prairies that are dominated by big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii). It may grow near the base of slopes since it requires more water than many of the other members of the genus Liatris. Art (1991) reported that gayfeather grew best on moist, well drained, and slightly acidic to neutral (pH 5.5 to 7.0) soils. Weaver and Fitzpatrick (1934) found it on 56 percent of low prairies and only 25 percent of upland prairies that they studied.
Weaver (1954) indicated that Liatris pycnostachya was characteristic of areas supporting big bluestem and was rarely found in much drier or much wetter grassland areas. This species of Liatris is probably the least drought tolerant and may need to be supplemented with irrigation to bloom vigorously in very dry weather.
Thickspike gayfeather is established in field and prairie restoration projects easiest from seed. A firm, clean, weed free seedbed should be prepared by disking, harrowing, and cultipacking the planting site. Chemical weed control can be used to reduce competition and limit the competition from perennial weed species. Seedbed should be firm enough to allow planting of the seed units at a depth of 6 mm. A drill equipped with a legume seed box and depth bands would allow for good depth placement of the seed unit and good seed to soil contact. A seeding rate of 30 Pure Live Seed (PLS) units per 30 cm of row should provide a consistent full stand. To plant a prairie restoration or diverse wildlife planting a seeding rate of 65 gm PLS per ha incorporated into the seeding mixture would be acceptable. Application of fertilizer the year of establishment is discouraged unless phosphorous and potassium are at extremely low levels on your soil test for the planting site. Absolutely no nitrogen fertilizer should be applied the first year to discourage weed competition from annual weed species.
Mowing can be used to reduce weed competition in newly established fields as long as mower height is kept above seedling height. Cultivation and herbicides can be used if gayfeather is planted in rows for seed production. Dead plant residue can be burned if done prior to plant growth in the spring. A non-selective herbicide (i.e. Roundup) can be used in the spring to remove early cool season species before plant regrowth begins.
Pests and Potential Problems
Rabbit protection might be required for gayfeather seedlings and newly developing shoots in the spring. Thickspike gayfeather stems tend to lodge in a monoculture situation. In a natural prairie setting other grass and forb plants tend to support the stems and keep them upright.
Environmental Concerns
Thickspike gayfeather does not spread vegetatively and seedlings are easy to control and maintain.
Seeds and Plant Production
Thickspike gayfeather can be propagated by seed or division of its corm. Art (1991) divided the corm vertically into pieces which each contained at least one bud. Plant the divided corm vertically with 30 to 60 cm spacing between individuals and the bud 5 cm below the soils surface. Seed propagation is easier than vegetative although the seed units require stratification. Seed germination will improve with aging of the seed for at least three years beyond the harvest date. Hesse (1973) obtained the best germination (up to 85%) with gayfeather seed units after 15 weeks of cold, moist stratification treatment.
Stratified seed can be planted in the early spring or summer and non-stratified seed can be planted in the fall (Platt and Harder 1991). Seedlings can be started in greenhouses from stratified seed to produce transplants. Seed units planted 6 mm deep in flats can be transplanted out doors in 8 to 12 weeks. Some nurseries plant seed in June to have corms to transplant in a dormant state the following spring. Seed fields can be harvested by direct combining and seed processed using a scalper and fanning mills. The seed units (achenes) are run through a hammer mill to remove the tuft of bristles. Manhattan Plant Materials Center (PMC) production records indicate that a purity of 97 to 99 percent is normal with a germination percentage of 29 to 71 and dormancy number of between 3 and 22 percent depending on the year. An eight year average of seed production yield indicates that 73 kg per ha was produced at Manhattan, Kansas.
Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin)
Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office for more information. Look in the phone book under “United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”