Wildflower of the Week by Chick Keller

This week’s flower looks very different from our usual subjects. It is pink with a spike of lacy flowers. These elaborate blossoms caught the eye of florists, who cultivated the plant for use in flower arrangements. Florists call it Liatris which refers to its botanical generic name, Liatris punctata. It has a whimsical and carefree common name, “Gayflower.” This fun flower graces many areas around town, and you can find a fair amount of them at the beginning of the Quemazon Trail.

Curiously, it is in the sunflower family (Compositae/Asteraceae), because its rayless flowers, which are merely lacy disc flowers, are ‘composited’ into groups up the stem. Still it is a stretch to say Liatris is reminiscent of a sunflower arrangement.
Often growing in just one or two stems, in good conditions Liatris can become a small bush (as seen above). This photo shows the Gayflower among quite a few friends including some yellow Hairy Goldenaster (Heterotheca villosa), white Spreading fleabane (Erigeron divergens), and two brilliantly red flowers: Firecracker penstemon (Penstemon barbarous) and Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) also known as Skyrocket. 
Amid all the yellow of late summer, Liatris is a welcome and beautiful compliment to the landscape.
Liatris punctata photo by Chick Keller.
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