Beyond the Garden: Dense Blazingstar

Introducing a new series: Beyond the Garden

In this series of articles, we are unveiling some of the ecological wonders and extraordinary adaptations of some of our favourite Canadian wildflower species. Each article in this series will feature a native plant or wildflower that we offer seeds for and share a few of the reasons we think they’re worth making space for in your garden or landscape. 

 

From pollination strategies to altering soil chemistry, these articles aim to explore the mysteries, ecological significance, and evolutionary pathways that shape these botanical treasures. We'll explore the ecological niches these wildflowers occupy, their relationships with wildlife, and their roles in sustaining biodiversity. 

 

Dense Blazingstar (Liatris spicata)

 

The flower spikes of this stunning tallgrass prairie species are loved by hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. Blazingstar is an excellent accent plant, especially when planted next to natives with contrasting yellow blooms, such as black-eyed susans and lance-leaf coreopsis. Here are a few more reasons we love this plant...

 

  • Dense Blazingstar is able to grow in soil that is contaminated with cadmium by turning this toxic heavy metal into a non-toxic form in its tissues. This makes it an effective plant for remediation of sites that have been contaminated. Since cadmium in the soil can bioaccumulate in food crops, this beautiful wildflower may offer a very important solution to reduce the presence of this toxin in our food. 

 

  • Indigenous people use Dense Blazingstar medicinally to treat muscle pain, digestive issues and heart problems.

 

  • Wildfire has traditionally played an important role in maintaining the prairie habitat of Dense Blazingstar. Fire stimulates the growth of hardy prairie flowers while naturally removing trees and shrubs that would otherwise shade-out the plants. Prescribed fire is still used to maintain and restore habitat for wild populations. 

 

  • The species is quite rare in Ontario, and is listed as threatened on Schedule 1 of the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA ). It is also listed as threatened in Ontario under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA, 2007). There are several threats to this species in Ontario but the largest is habitat loss. Only 1-3% of tallgrass prairie habitat remains in North America (Sampson 1996), making it our continent’s most endangered ecosystem. If only more of us could turn our backyard into tallgrass prairie and make room for species like Dense Blazingstar.

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