Southern Gayfeather - Blazing Star
(Scaly Blazing Star - Scaly Gayfeather - Loose Scale Gayfeather - Large Blazing Star)
Liatris squarrulosa - Michaux
Asteraceae (Composite Sunflower) Family

Plant is a tall, upright or sprawling perennial with reddish stems arising from a corm (an underground stem, often covered with thin, dry leaves similar to a gladiolus bulb).  Preferred habitat is dry uplands, prairies, thin pine woods and the margin of meadows.  Distribution is throughout the Escambia region.

Leaves are mostly at the base of the plant, oblong to lance-like, up to six inches long on a leaf stalk.  Leaf margins are rolled inward, with underside dotted.  Upper stem leaves are much reduced to seem not present.  Smaller leaves are seen as linear bracts under the flower heads.

Flowers are clustered in spikes.  Flower heads are more or less rounded with 15-20 purple disc flowers with nodding corollas.  Bracts are overlapping like roof shingles; blunt to nearly rounded and recurved; dark purple, giving the flower even more prominence.  Flowers occur in late summer and early autumn.

Fruit is a seed which outer later is fused to it (achene).

A similar species, L. squarrosa, has numerous green leaves on the stem, with the flower head protruding from the upper leaf whorl.

The flower heads and broad leaves with stalks well separated are characteristic of four very similar species in this range, which may eventually prove variants of a single species.

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