Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A colony of Liatris mucronata

with 36 comments

Liatris mucronata Colony Flowering 1951

Click for greater clarity and considerably larger size.

In October the Liatris mucronata, known as gayfeather and blazing-star, was having as good a season as the visiting monarch butterflies, of which I count six in this portion of the wildflower colony.

The date was October 9th, and the place was a piece of the Blackland Prairie at Wells Branch Parkway and Heatherwilde Blvd.


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 2, 2013 at 6:00 AM

36 Responses

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  1. Nice color. Glad to say we have them here, too.

    Jim in IA

    November 2, 2013 at 6:20 AM

    • Ah, but yours in Iowa (if growing in the wild) are apparently a different species; according to the USDA website, Liatris mucronata has been found only as far north as southern Missouri and northeastern Kansas. Still, the maps could be incorrect, or the species could have extended its range since the maps were made.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 2, 2013 at 6:51 AM

      • My copy of Haddock’s “Wildflowers & Grasses of Kansas” lists Liatris aspera, Liatris punctata, and Liatris squarrosa. The first is found in the eastern half of the state, the second throughout and the third in the western half. I saw primarily the Liatris punctata and suspect that might be what Jim has, too. The appearance is quite similar.


        November 2, 2013 at 9:08 AM

  2. This is so lovely! Oh, and when you enlarge the view you can count 10. It is a monarch feast! 😀


    November 2, 2013 at 6:41 AM

    • I’m glad to be outdone, Lynda, when it comes to counting monarch butterflies. It was a delight to wander through this colony of Liatris on the prairie that morning. The species also grows in the hills on the west side of Austin, but in my experience the Liatris colonies are much larger on the prairie, and that’s probably why I’ve seen many more monarchs there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 2, 2013 at 6:58 AM

      • In view of the recent news of the monarchs’ declining numbers, I am glad to know there are so many in the Austin area.


        November 2, 2013 at 7:02 AM

        • The numbers vary, of course, but my (limited) observations make me think that 2013 has been a good year for monarchs and for Liatris.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 2, 2013 at 11:19 AM

  3. Very nice!!


    November 2, 2013 at 6:56 AM

  4. wow – spectacular site this must have been! In our UK garden I planted a couple of diff. varieties of Liatris and even those few attracted some butterflys.


    November 2, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    • Yes, it was a spectacular site (and sight). I hope you’ll get to see it someday, just as I hope to see the English countryside someday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 2, 2013 at 10:22 AM

  5. I’m soooooo jealous! What a beautiful creature it is and such an extraordinary migration. Fabulous colour contrasts against the purple flowers 🙂

    • I’ll agree that the orange and purple are an excellent color mix, and just one of many combinations to be seen in central Texas. As I mentioned to the previous commenter, I hope you’ll get to see this in person someday, just as I hope someday to see the English countryside.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 2, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      • We do have some wonderful wildflower habitats here 🙂 Many of the British butterflies are very fussy about what they either feed or lay eggs on so some species are very rare due to habitat loss. One day I really hope to come and witness the monarch migration!

  6. Just beautiful, Steve. Reminds me of those puzzle search games for kids 🙂
    Sadly, the monarchs were few and far between in south central Ontario this year.


    November 2, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    • Ah yes, I remember puzzle search games when I was a kid. In this case one of the searches was for butterflies that would stay put long enough and let me get close enough to take pictures. It seems I was able to get closer to monarchs a decade ago. Your report of few of them in Ontario coincides with a couple of earlier comments about a scarcity in the eastern United States this year. I’m glad that wasn’t the case in Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 2, 2013 at 3:35 PM

  7. […] recently seen a colony of Liatris mucronata, known as gayfeather and blazing-star, and one of Helianthus maximiliani, or […]

  8. So glad to hear that you are still able to find colonies such as this. With all the development, they are becoming fewer and farther between.


    November 3, 2013 at 7:07 AM

    • Of course finding colonies like this is getting harder due to continuing development, so I was especially happy to find a couple of good Liatris colonies this season. The one I’ll always remember was adjacent to a piece of Harris Ridge Blvd. that at the time (1999, I think) was a jeep trail but is now a four-lane road. A few years after I found that field it got mowed and the colony never returned in its former size density.

      The colony in today’s picture was across Wells Branch Parkway from the so-called “Austin-Pflugerville Driver License Mega Center.” Adjacent to that building was a smaller though still appealing colony of Liatris, but even with the ubiquity of cell phone cameras now, I didn’t see anyone else stopping to take pictures of the wildflowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2013 at 7:32 AM

  9. Beautiful framing here, those monarchs add accents to the whole panorama.

    M. Firpi

    November 3, 2013 at 11:03 PM

    • I admit to having a soft spot for panoramas—but usually with no softness in the details. Coincidentally, I visited this colony again yesterday; the inflorescences have turned fluffy now and present a very different appearance.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 4, 2013 at 8:41 AM

  10. […] you remember Liatris mucronata, known as gayfeather and blazing-star? (You’re welcome to look back at a flowering group to refresh your memory.) Here’s what a colony of it looks like after the plants have gone to […]

  11. […] you remember what blazing-star, Liatris mucronata, looks like when it’s flowering? In contrast, here’s what a spike of this plant looks like after it has gone to seed, dried […]

  12. The monarchs have arrived in my garden but there is no liatris mucronata to greet them. What a pity, they look so beautiful together.


    January 26, 2016 at 7:18 AM

    • I agree that it’s an excellent combination.

      Monarchs lay their eggs only on milkweed plants. Have people in NZ been planting milkweeds to support the monarchs?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2016 at 8:35 AM

      • Yes, many do. Swan plants are the plant of choice here.


        January 26, 2016 at 5:22 PM

        • That’s strange: a butterfly native to North America breeding in New Zealand on a plant native to southeast Africa.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 26, 2016 at 8:22 PM

          • Indeed! And the butterfly is so content it doesn’t bother to migrate.


            January 26, 2016 at 9:07 PM

            • I think the butterfly, no matter how discontented it might be, would have a hard time making it back across the Pacific.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 26, 2016 at 11:13 PM

              • Indeed, unless it became a stowaway.


                January 26, 2016 at 11:56 PM

                • I hadn’t considered that possibility.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 27, 2016 at 7:35 AM

                • And the next time after this comment that I write INDEED, you have my permission to edit it out. Indeed, I am using indeed far too often.


                  January 27, 2016 at 11:54 PM

                • You’ve reminded me of the saying “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Pursuing the word deed, I just learned that there’s something called Good Deeds Day, which this year comes on April 10.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 28, 2016 at 4:04 AM

  13. […] only species I see in Austin, Liatris punctata var. mucronata, has purple flowers. In fact every other species of Liatris I’m aware of has purple flowers, so the yellow really […]

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