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by Valerie (August 8, 2000)
There are several species of gayfeather that are popular as garden plants. In this area, narrow-leafed gayfeather (Liatris mucronata) grows wild, sometimes covering a wide area. It seems to prefer the almost soil-less, dry, rocky conditions found in open fields, although it doesn't usually grow very tall.

The plants have a large corm that lies just below the surface and we transplanted a number of these from an area near Waco. In their wild state, the flowers all had only one to three stems each, and were not more than about one foot tall. After a couple years in our gardens, where they receive extra water, they all produce multiple stems as tall as three feet, sometimes getting top heavy and falling over. The flowers appear in late summer and open from the top down. By winter, the stems die back and don't start to grow again until well into spring.

We have one plant that grows in a rather unusual fashion. This particular flower grows only horizontally and the tips of the stalks curl very tightly. It still blooms just like the others, but with a club-like mass of blossoms instead of the feather-shaped racemes that are the norm.

The corms have been used for medicinal purposes including a treatment for sore throat and rattlesnake bites. This second use has given it another common name: button snakeroot.

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