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A Comprehensive Guide to Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata)

Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata) is a herbaceous perennial that is native to the mid-western United States and middle provinces of Canada. This plant is a host to the Wavy-lined Emerald (Synchlora aerata) and two other moths. This plant grows from 0.5 to 3 feet tall, and has rose-lavender flowers that bloom from August to September. It is hardy in zones 4-9. Seeds of this plant and other Liatris can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Taxonomy and Naming of Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata)

Herbarium specimen of dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata).
Herbarium Specimen — Liatris punctata Hook. collected in United States of America by The New York Botanical Garden (licensed under CC BY 4.0)


Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata) was named and described by William Jackson Hooker, an English botanist, in 1833. The species has kept the current name since 1903 and is a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae).


Liatris punctata has two varieties:

  • var. mucronata: has a globular corm and has a more southern distribution
  • var. punctata: has an underground rootstock and has a wider distribution

Meaning of the Scientific and Common Names

Scientific Name

The genus name, Liatris, is of unknown origin in the literature. The species name, punctata, is a Latin word for describing the punctate leaves.

Common Name and Alternative Names

The common name describes the punctate nature of the leaves, which look like dots. Other common names such as dotted blazingstar and narrow-leaved blazingstar, describe the leaves in different ways. Another name, dwarf gayfeather, describes the shorter stature of the plant compared to other gayfeathers.

Physical Description of Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata)

Close-up of purple flowers of dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata).
Flowers of Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata) — English: NPS Staff, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


  • Plant Type: This plant is a herbaceous perennial.
  • Height: 1 to 3.5 feet
  • Stem: glabrous
  • Leaves: The leaves are alternate, simple, entire, and linear in shape. The leaves range in size from 3 to 6 inches in length at the bottom and get shorter towards the top of the plant. The leaves range from 0.1 to 0.2 inches wide. The leaves are distinctly punctate (Gaiser 1946), hence the species name.
  • Flower color: white to purple
  • Blooming period: This plant blooms from July to September.
  • Fruiting type and period: The achenes mature in the late summer and fall.

Range of Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata) in the United States and Canada

Range map of dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata) in the United States and Canada.
Range Map Credit: Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2023.(website Chapel Hill, N.C. [maps generated from Kartesz, J.T. 2023. Floristic Synthesis of North America, Version 1.0. Biota of North America Program (BONAP). (in press)]

This species is native to the southern and mid-western United States and the middle provinces of Canada. It has been introduced in states further eastward. It is considered to be rare in Wisconsin, Missouri, and Louisiana. This species has the widest distribution of any in the genus (Gaiser 1954) and extends into Mexico.


Meadow habitat in Europe.
Meadow Habitat — Leonhard Lenz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This species grows in a variety of habitats such as forests, woodlands, flatwoods (Neyland 1998), grasslands (short-grass plains (Weaver 1920) and tall-grass (Nelson 2010)), meadows, roadsides (Leston 2016), and prairies, some of which are calcareous (Weakley 2022) or have slopes of red sandstone and shale or gypsum (Nesom 2008). A lot of the habitats described for the plant are described as being dry or being frequently burned in the south (Bridges 1989).

Hosted Insects

Wavy-lined emerald (Synchlora aerata) on beige background.
Wavy-lined Emarald (Synchlora aerata) — CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This species is a host for the wavy-lined emerald (Synchlora aerata), liatris flower moth (Schinia sanguinea), and the liatris borer moth (Carmenta anthracipennis).

Other Supported Wildlife

Honeybee on purple flower.
Purple Aster with Honeybee — John Severns (Severnjc), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This species is a nectar source to other butterflies, especially the Monarch Butterfly, skippers, bees, and wasps during the growing season. It is especially important to the Pawnee Montane Skipper (Hesperia leonardus montana) as a nectar plant (Wooley, et al. 1991 and Spomer et al. 1993).

Frequently Asked Questions about Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata)

Is this plant deer resistant?

This plant has been listed as deer resistant by a number of sources in the trade.

Does this plant have any ethnobotanical uses?

The Native American Ethobotanical Database shows that this plant has been used for stomach, urinary, and skin disorders as well as a food. In a study of anti-cancer properties, this species was shown to have some anti-cancer activity (Kindscher et al. 1998).

How is this plant distinguished from others?

Dotted gayfeather is similar to the bracted gayfeather (Liatris bracteata), but is different in that bracted gayfeather has more flowers per head (8+), whereas the other has <8 flowers per head. Dotted gayfeather is similar also to sharp gayfeather, but sharp gayfeather has a globose corms whereas the other is elongate and rhizomatous (Weakley 2022).

Is this plant invasive?

This species has not been listed as being invasive.

Gardening with Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata)

Add Dotted Gayfeather to Your Garden

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Lavender flower of dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata).
Flowers of Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata) — Jim Pisarowicz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


This species is hardy in zones 4-9. If your garden is within these zones and you have the right growing conditions (soil, moisture and exposure), you may well be able to grow this plant. However, if planted outside of its range, the hosted species may not recognize the plant or be harmed by ingesting a different species with an unfamiliar chemical composition.

Optimal Conditions

This species grows best in places that have full sun in well-drained soils and are dry (Moran 1940) or have light soil (< 50% sand) (Lesica 2019). It is an ideal plant for a garden without a lot of water and does not require a lot of maintenance.

Additional Information

This plant, like a lot of the Liatris, makes a good cut flower specimen when in bloom. Old flowers can be deadheaded to encourage more flowers during the season.

This plant has very deep roots that may extend to 7-16 feet deep (Henrickson 2007). These plants should be planted in groups for maximum color and effect.


  • Bridges, Edwin L. and S.L. Orzell. 1989. Additions and Noteworthy Vascular Plant Collections from Texas and Louisiana USA with Historical Ecological and Geographical Notes. Phytologia 66: 12-69.
  • Gaiser, Lulu Odell. 1946. The Genus Liatris (Continued). Rhodora 48: 216-263.
  • Gaiser, Lulu Odell. 1954. Studies in the Kuhniinae (Eupatorieae) II. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 35: 87-133.
  • Henrickson, Bob. 2007. Liatris punctata. American Nurseryman 205 (8): 66.
  • Kindscher, Kelly, Kirk P. Manfredi, Melissa Britton, Maria Demidova, and Dana Hurlburt. 1998. Testing prairie plants with ethnobotanical importance for anti-cancer and anti-AIDS compounds. Journal of Ethnobiology 18: 229-245.
  • Lesica, Peter and Stephen V. Cooper. 2019. Choosing Native Species for Restoring Crested Wheatgrass Fields on the Great Plains of Northeast Montana. American Midland Naturalist 181 (2): 327-334.
  • Leston, Lionel and Nicola Koper. 2016. Urban Rights-of-Way as Reservoirs for Tall-Grass Prairie Plants and Butterflies. Environmental Management 57 (3): 543-557.
  • Moran, E.C. 1940. North Dakota and Montana forestry and wild flower seeds, native plants: wholesale trade list, August 15, 1940. (Medora, ND: Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection).
  • Nelson, J.K. 2010. Vascular flora of the Rocky Flats Area, Jefferson County, Colorado, USA. Phytologia 2: 121-150.
  • Nesom, Guy and Robert J. O’Kennon. 2008. Major plant communities of Lake Meredith National Recreational Area and Alibates Flint Quaries National Monument. Phytologia 90: 391-405.
  • Neyland, Ray, Harry A. Meyer, and Heather Harrington. 1998. Woody vegetation diversity of longleaf pine communities in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. Phytologia 85: 51-60.
  • Spomer, Stephen M., Leon G. Higley, Timothy T. Orwig, Gerald L. Shelby, Linda J. Young. 1993. Clinal variation in Hesperia leonardus (Hesperiidae) in the Loess Hills of the Missouri River Valley. Journal of the Lepidopterists Society 47: 291-302.
  • Weakley, A.S. and the Southeastern Flora Team. 2022. Flora of the southeastern United States. University of North Carolina Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden.
  • Weaver, John. 1920. Root Development in the Grassland Formation: A Correlation of the Root Systems of Native Vegetation and Crop Plants. Carnegie Institution of Washington 292.
  • Wooley, Robert L., L.C. Keenan, M.N. Nelson, R.E. Stanford. 1991. Oviposition Behavior and Nectar Sources of the Pawnee Montane Skipper (Hesperia leonardus montana Hesperiidae. Journal of the Lepidopterists Society 45: 239-240.
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Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe is a professional ecologist and botanist who has worked as the State Ecologist of Delaware and as an ecologist for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. He is also a former Past-President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. He currently is an innkeeper at McMullen House Bed & Breakfast LLC and a web designer and owner for Silphium Design LLC.

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