A big part of the fun of this project so far is all the new things I’ve learned. Not just about how to take effective sunrise photos under any and all conditions, but also the birds, the bugs, the ever-changing weather, and of course the flowers!
What can be difficult is taking my photos and trying to figure out what each flower is – because it’s not always obvious. Plants are identified based on the type and structure of leaves, the color, type and shape of flower, the time when the flower blooms, and of course what the seed pod looks like. But. There can be regional differences causing changes in structure. Or elements in the soil that make the color of the flower or leave a different shade. There can even be so many varieties of a single species that you just can’t figure out which one your photo matches most closely.
I finally decided that this little beauty has to be the Dotted Blazing Star (Liatris punctata). It might have been the Rough Blazing Star, but the bracts on mine aren’t rounded, they’re cylindrical. (The bracts are the green casing that the flower blooms from.) The leaves and stems matched the ones on the Cylindric Blazing Star… but the flowers on Liatris cylindracea stand too far away from the main stalk to be mine. I would have liked it to be the Northern Plains Blazing Star, but though the leaves match in length and width, the Northern Plains has spikes all over its leaves, and the flowers just don’t match at all – too large and round and poofy, on loooong stems stretching away from the main stalk. And the only characteristic the Prairie Blazing Star has in common with the photos I took is the pale purple color.
So, Dotted Blazing Star it is! (Or a new variety. I suppose it could be that, too. Or a hybrid.)
Like so many other flowers on Barn Bluff, the Blazing Star is a member of the Aster family. All five of the species I was trying to match to are perennial natives, and they all bloom at the same time – July to September. The Cylindric and the Dotted prefer dryer prairie soil, but they’re all happy with the sun.