This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
We made a note of this beautiful hardy flower last month; since then the effect of the drouth on summer flowering plants has been counted up, and the result in favor of this is so striking that in the hope of a more general introduction, we have had a sketch made of one as an illustration. Through the greater part of the month of August it was in full blossom, as if the heat, so destructive to many plants, was a matter of no consequence to it.
The plant is found wild abundantly throughout the States of Kansas and Texas, and in the Indian Territory, and though long known to botanists, and now and then sent east by correspondents during the past dozen years or more, no attempt to introduce it to general notice has been made that we are aware of. During the past summer we saw a whole row of it in the garden of a florist, and the effect of so large a quantity was beautiful in the extreme. The plants were raised from seeds brought originally from Southern Kansas, in 1873. If sown in the fall, the plants bloom the next year, but the best success follows when sown in the spring, and the plants have a season's growth before flowering the next year. The roots are somewhat bulbous, and when once had will bloom well for several years. There are some twenty species of North American Liatris, but this is perhaps, the handsomest of the whole. The flowers are rosy purple; spike about one foot long, as shown in the engraving. They commence to flower at the top of the spike, and the blooming progresses downwards.
In the illustration the lower blossoms have yet to open.
Like so many beautiful plants from the West this has not been known long enough to get an English name, and we suppose the Greek one will be considered "hard" by the dear ladies, and "pedantic" by the average man. The settlers call it "Fire-weed" and "Sky-rocket Plant," but as these names are already given to scores of things, and will be to as many more, it is hardly worth holding on to them. The Eastern L. scari-osa is known as "Gay Feather;" suppose we all agree to call this the "Kansas Gay Feather." there are other species of Liatris in Kansas, but as this is the best let it be the one.
This magnificent plant stood the dry and hot weather most triumphantly. By the 1st of August it was in full bloom, continuing the whole month. It will be a fit companion to the Gladiolus when it becomes well known. It flowers after it is one year old from the seed, and is easily raised.
Liatris pycnostachya, of which you speak on page 263, grows abundantly here. It is truly a magnificent plant, and when seen waving its blazing head in the prairies, it never fails to commend itself to the flower lover. As our summer climate is hot and dry, it ought to endure anything you ever have of dryness in the East.