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New England Blazing Star

By Andrew C (Savanna Blazing-star (Liatris scariosa)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

New England Blazing Star and Native Pollinators

We're reintroducing New England blazing stars and other rare dry soil wildflowers on conservation land around Middlesex County. Working with local towns, we plant seedlings grown by local volunteers. To date, we've planted vital pollinator species in six locations: Lexington’s Joyce Miller's Meadow and Whipple Hill, Carlisle’s Foss Farm; Boston’s Victory Gardens; and Concord's Heywood Meadow and Peter Spring Field.

With nearly five acres blooming with wildflowers native to Massachusetts and the northeastern U.S., Peter Spring Field is our biggest pollinator accomplishment so far. This field is likely one of the largest concentrations of native wildflowers in Massachusetts. Among the more widespread flower species are: oxeye sunflower, wild bergamot, showy tick trefoil, tall evening primrose, common milkweed, partridge pea, black-eyed susan, daisy fleabane, and rattlebox. We recorded a substantial population of a small moth species, the ornate bella moth (Utetheisa ornatrix), whose larvae depend on the relatively rare legume, rattlebox. This moth had been regarded previously as extirpated from Massachusetts. We also observed the first blooming of the rare native butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). In warm weather the field is abuzz with bees, birds, dragonflies and beetles, and serves as an ideal turtle nesting habitat.

At Joyce Miller's Meadow and Whipple Hill, we’ve planted hundreds of New England blazing stars, as well as dozens of other vital pollinator plants (including bergamot, early sunflower, butterfly milkweed, and common milkweed). Since their planting in 2016, we’ve observed extant plants, experimenting with the best protocols for growing and transplanting them, and expanding the size of the wildflower plots every year.

About Native Pollinators

New England blazing star is a native wildflower in the aster family that used to be widespread across Massachusetts. This plant has all but disappeared from northeastern Massachusetts and is now listed under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act as a species of Special Concern.

Wildflowers like the New England blazing star provide vital forage to our native pollinators, such as bees, wasps, moths and butterflies. Blazing stars, in particular, are critical nectar plants that monarch butterflies depend upon to fuel their autumn migration to Mexico.

Many native pollinator species are on the decline due to habitat loss. By planting native wildflowers in your backyard, you can help provide habitat for both declining native wildflowers and their insect pollinators. Please contact us for ideas!

New England Blazing Star Fact Sheet