This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flower-heads - Composite, about 1 in. long, bright purple or rose purple, of tubular florets only, from an involucre of overlapping, rigid, pointed bracts; each of the few flower-heads from the leaf axils along a slender stem in a wand-like raceme. Stem: 1/2 to 2 ft. high. Leaves: Alternate, narrow, entire.
Preferred Habitat - Dry, rich soil.
Flowering Season - June - September.
Distribution - Ontario to the Gulf of Mexico, westward to Nebraska.
Beginning at the top, the apparently fringed flower-heads open downward along the wand, whose length depends upon the richness of the soil. All of the flowers are perfect and attract long-tongued bees and flies (especially Exoprosopa fasciata) and butterflies, which, as they sip from the corolla tube, receive the pollen carried out and exposed on the long divisions of the style. Some people have pretended to cure rattlesnake bites with applications of the globular tuber of this and the next species.
The Large Button Snakeroot, Blue Blazing Star, or Gay Feather (L. scariosa), may attain six feet, but usually not more than half that height; and its round flower-heads normally stand well away from the stout stem on foot-stems of their own. The bristling scales of the involucre, often tinged with purple at the tips, are a conspicuous feature. With much the same range and choice of habitat as the last species, this Blazing Star is a later bloomer, coming into flower in August, and helping the golden-rods and asters brighten the landscape throughout the early autumn. The name of gay feather, miscellaneously applied to several blazing stars, is especially deserved by this showy beauty of the family.
Unlike others of its class, the Dense Button Snakeroot, Devil's Bit, Rough or Backache Root, Prairie Pine or Throatwort (L. spicata), the commonest species we have, chooses moist soil, even salt marshes near the coast, and low meadows throughout a range nearly corresponding with that of the scaly blazing star. Resembling its relatives in general manner of growth, we note that its oblong involucre, rounded at the base, has blunt, not sharply pointed, bracts; that the flower-heads are densely set close to the wand for from four to fifteen inches; that the five to thirteen bright rose-purple florets which compose each head occasionally come white; that its leaves are long and very narrow, and that October is not too late to find the plant in bloom.