CPC Plant Profile: Heller's Blazingstar
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Plant Profile

Heller's Blazingstar (Liatris helleri)

This shot shows the dwarf liatris, called Heller's Blazing Star, in bloom. Photo Credit: Robert Sutter
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Threatened
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • State: NC
  • Nature Serve ID: 135782
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/10/1987

Heller's Blazing Star is an extremely rare and attractive native wildflower. Its habitat consists of rocky outcrops, ledges, cliffs and balds at high elevations in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It is currently known to grow in only seven locations. Two additional sites have been lost to residential and recreational developments and, in spite of extensive searches, plants have not been seen in these areas for the last fifty years. This species was probably never common due to its restricted and isolated habitat requirements. Because there are so few sites left, Hellers Blazing Star is most vulnerable to seemingly minor threats such as trampling by hikers, climbers, and sightseers. Hellers Blazing Star produces one or more flowering stalks which rise above a rosette of narrow basal leaves. The showy flowering stalk may reach to 40 cm in height and bears gradually diminishing cauline leaves before culminating in a spike of lavender flowers (Kral 1983). This species flowers from July to September (Radford et al. 1964) and fruits from August to October (Massey et al. 1980).

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Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Endemic to summits in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. There are 21 extant occurrences, with about 3,000 individuals in total. Several occurrences have been showing serious declines due in part to heavy recreational use of the rocky cliffs where they grow. To augment the populations, volunteers have planted nearly 3,000 seedlings, grown from seeds collected from the wild populations. Also, new overlook and trail facilities have been designed to avoid the plants. Q following the numeric global rank indicates taxonomic questions.

  • 01/01/2010

The principal threat to this species is trampling by outdoor enthusiasts (Gaddy 1983). Another potential threat is acid precipitation and other forms of atmospheric pollution (USFWS 1989). The forest service, park service, or the Nature Conservancy protec

  • 01/01/2010

There are only seven known sites supporting Hellers Blazing Star, several of which are quite small. The smallest has less than a dozen plants. (USFWS 1989)

  • 01/01/2010

Little research has been done on Hellers Blazing Star, Liatris helleri, and information from work on other related species has been used as a surrogate until L. helleri can be better studied. Work on L. aspera and L. spicata indicates that disturbance might be necessary for the maintenance of these early successional species (Kerster 1968; Roberts et al. 1977). Work on L. cylindracea showed that human trampling was detrimental and that only natural disturbances had a positive effect (Bowles and Maun 1982). In a study on L. pycnostachya, Schall (1978) found that small populations attracted few pollinators. This information may prove important as several of the L. helleri populations are quite small (USFWS 1989). Dr. Zack Murrell and his students at Appalachian State University are conducting demographic and reproductive biology studies. Some monitoring plots have been established in especially sensitive locations (USFWS 1989).

  • 01/01/2010

At high traffic Hellers Blazing Star sites, trails have been diverted and boardwalks built to help prevent trampling. Seedlings produced in genetic experiments have been returned to the sites from which seeds were collected.

  • 01/01/2010

Very little is known of the population biology or life history of Hellers Blazing Star. Studies on abiotic factors affecting populations as well as on pollination, competition, the effects of trampling, and of acid rain should be undertaken as well (USFWS 1989). Long term protection should be sought for populations on privately owned land.

  • 01/01/2010

Seed collections from populations not represented in collection


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Taxon Liatris helleri
Authority Porter
Family Asteraceae
CPC Number 2536
ITIS 37926
Common Names Heller's blazing-star | Heller's gay-feather | turgid blazing star | Heller's blazingstar
Associated Scientific Names Liatris helleri | Liatris turgida | Lacinaria helleri | Lacinaria pilosa auct. non
Distribution Endemic to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina (USFWS 1989)
State Rank
State State Rank
North Carolina S2

Rocky outcrops, ledges, cliffs and balds at high elevations, often in full sun (USFWS 1989)

Ecological Relationships

Although hymenopterans have been observed visiting the flowers, specific pollinators are not yet known (USFWS 1989). Seeds are wind distributed (USFWS 1989).

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees Floral Visitor Link
Butterflies & Moths
Butterflies Floral Visitor Link
Moths Floral Visitor Link
Hymenopterans Floral Visitor Link
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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