Liatris is a tall perennial that is native to Virginia and prefers moist ground. You will find it in low meadows and along the edges of ponds and wetlands. It can grow 4′ to 6′ in height, so it is hard to miss when it is in bloom!
Believe it or not, this plant is an aster, but it only has disk flowers (no ray flowers). The tiny, dark purple flowers occur in masses along the length of robust terminal spikes. Although each frilly flower is only about 1/2 inch in diameter, Liatris looks like a fluffy purple wand when viewed from a distance. That’s how it earned the names “gayfeathers” and “blazing star”.
The leaves are narrow and grass-like and occur densely along the flowering stalk. See the photo below for a detailed view.
Liatris blooms in summer time (July and August). I took these photos on August 2nd in a wet meadow at Glen Alton. You will also find it growing in home gardens throughout the South, where it adds rich color and architectural interest to borders. Oh, and butterflies love it too! Read more about this plant, and the butterflies that love it here. The article describes a big “colony” of Liatris growing near Blacksburg, on the road to Caldwell Fields.