Did you know Liatris spp., also commonly known as blazing star, attracts the Bumble bees, Bombus fraternus in our ecoregion 231? Read on.
Name: Liatris spicata
Common: Blazing Star, Marsh Liatris
Zones: Herbaceous perennial
Size: 2-4 feet tall x 0.5-1.5 foot wide
Conditions: Sun, medium moisture
Attracts: In ecoregion 231, Liatris spp. attracts bumble bees, Bombus fraternus, and is also a butterfly nectar plant magnet.
Liatris adds a wonderful vertical interest to a cottage garden border. Helen Yoest, Bee Better’s Executive Director, once interviewed Piet Oudolf at his home in Hummelo, Netherlands. Liatris filled his garden, where the flower stalks are left up through the winter to add structure. As Piet is fond of saying, “Brown is a color too!”
Upon returning to the US, Ms. Yoest caved out a space in the Bee Better Teaching Garden to create a nano Hummelo. In a section just 4 foot by 4 foot, Ms. Yoest planted a series of Liatris, Phlomis russeliana, and Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’. Somehow it fell short of looking good in our winter. What Oudolf experiences in winter is a far cry from out humid and often wet weather. The plants just weathered. The patch is still there, because in the summer, the arrangement is magnificent, and the birds, bees, and butterflies are always around.
We’ve used Liatris as punctuation marks in the Bee Better Teaching Garden, and very effectively. In other beds, we use Liatris as a repetitive boarder plant. We are not so sure why these purple spikes (that also have a white form) aren’t used as often as they are. Perhaps, from a design perspective, it’s hard to envision the rhythm in a border. The spikes work best with gradual sized plants on each side so the height doesn’t appear out of place. That is of course unless you are using them as a punctuation point as we did in the Teaching Garden.
On Lindtner honeybee scale of 0 to 5, pollen and nectar content is 1 and 1, respectively.