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Kevin Doyle

Marsh Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)

Life history

Species overview

Marsh Blazing Star (Liatris spicata), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in moist, sandy calcareous prairies. Blooming occurs late July through early August; fruiting occurs throughout August. The optimal identification period for this species is early August through early September.

Synonyms: Lacinaria spicata, Serratula spicata


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Heads strictly sessile, 5 to 14 flowers per head.
  • Flower characteristics: Inflorescence elongate, dense and resembling a spike in form, 5 to 14 pink-purple flowers per head; corolla smooth within, 7 to 11 mm long including the 2 to 3 mm lobes.
  • Fruit characteristics: Cypselae (achene surrounded by calyx sheath) 4 to 6 mm long; pappus with barbellate hairs.
  • Leaf characteristics: Numerous, linear or nearly so; lowest leaves 10 to 40 cm long by 2 to 20 mm wide, becoming reduced upward.


  • Blooming phenology: late July through early August
  • Fruiting phenology: throughout August
  • Optimum time to identify: early August through early September


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Phlox glaberrima, Calamintha arkansana, Allium cernuum, Pycnanthemum virginianum, Solidago ohioensis, S. ridellii, S. ptarmicoides, Dodecatheon meadia, Aster sericeus, Artemisia campestris.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Marsh Blazing Star (Liatris spicata). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Liatris spicata in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS3
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in moist, sandy calcareous prairies.
  • Soils: Moist to wet, sandy, calcareous soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Marsh Blazing Star. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Wet-mesic Prairie 3
Mesic Prairie 2

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Marsh Blazing Star. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).
  • Maintain and restore open habitat through selective clearing and brushing.
  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.


Marsh Blazing Star  Photo.

Photo by Christina Isenring, Wisconsin DNR.

Marsh Blazing Star  Photo.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Marsh Blazing Star  Photo.

Photo © William S. Alverson.

Marsh Blazing Star  Photo.

Photo © Kitty Kohout.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition