A Garden Star at Peak Bloom

Fall signals the annual wildflower bloom at Bok Tower Gardens. Visit now to see Blazing Star at peak bloom along the Pine Ridge Trail.

Blazing star (Liatris spp.) or gayfeather is a native, herbaceous perennial that produces slender spikes of brilliant purple flowers in late summer and into fall. A member of the Aster family, blazing stars are a group of about 40 species native to North America, occurring from northern Mexico to southern Canada, and in every U.S. state east of the Rocky Mountains. Central Florida is home to no fewer than eleven species of blazing star; they are a prominent feature of our region’s spectacular fall wildflower display and an integral part of our native plant and animal communities.

Blazing stars are well suited to central Florida’s scrub and sandhill communities and thrive in sunny locations on relatively dry, well-drained soils. They are a preferred nectar source for migrating monarch butterflies and an important food source for adult skippers, fritillaries, sulphurs and swallowtail butterflies. They frequently host bumblebees and honeybees, and are the sole food source for the larvae of our native flower moths. Their drought tolerance, ability to attract native pollinators, fine texture and bold coloration combine to make blazing star an increasingly important and reliable component of the urban landscape.

Blazing stars make wonderful additions to the home garden, whether in small masses in perennial borders, accent pieces in formal garden beds, or in container plantings where they add height and contrast. These low maintenance plants also make great cut flowers, fresh or dried, and add color and texture to indoor living spaces. In the garden, as in nature, blazing star pairs exceptionally well with many native, yellow-blooming asters, including goldenrods (Solidago spp.), tickseeds (Coreopsis spp.) and coneflowers (Rudbeckia spp.). Together, they form an indispensable part of an amazing fall landscape that rivals any other.

Every year, this increasingly rare and beautiful landscape is on display in central Florida. With seven species of blazing star located throughout our gardens and natural areas, Bok Tower Gardens is an outstanding place to experience this remarkable spectacle.

Blog was written by Patrick Lynch, Plant Records Curator and photographed by Cassidy Jones, Social Media Coordinator.