BLAZING-STAR Liatris graminifolia
There are many objects that have become a part of the religious decorations that adorn our homes and churches during the Advent season: a manger, shepherd’s crooks, lambs, candles, gifts, bells, angels, camels, churches with steeples and stars.
Likewise, there are many more secular decorations included in this season that have been developed amid fables, poems and songs.
For me as an artist, the many ways that the star or stars can be used in greeting cards and gift wrappings are very special. The ancient story of the Wise Men from the East being guided to the Christ child by a star lends itself to simple illustrations and content for this column.
Blazing-star has a single stem that may reach as high as 4 feet. Its pattern of blooming is unique in the wildflower kingdom in that the first blossom appears at the top of the spike. Then the following blossoms proceed down the stem.
Blazing-star blooms in the summer, but it has a similar cousin with lavender-pink blooms called mistflower (eupatorium coelestinum).
The irregular wispy appearance, as pictured, is the same for both plants, though blazing-star’s petals are larger and the color a hotter pink. Another notable difference, and perhaps more significant, is the extensive branching of the mistflower compared to blazing-star’s single dominant spike.
The leaves of this variety of blazing-star are very narrow, about 1/4-inch wide. Their length measures from 4 inches at ground level to 1 inch at the top of the spike. On the other hand, mistflower leaves are 2 to 3 inches long and 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide.
Both can be found in moist areas, especially near pines and roadside ditches in September and October.
The roots of blazing-star are tuberous. In early folk medicine, the tubers were crushed and the juice used as a treatment for poisonous snake bite.
May the symbol of the star that guided the Wise Men of old guide you to the Prince of Peace this coming Lord’s Day.
Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.