Scientific Name(s): Liatris spicata and other Liatris species
Abundance: uncommon
What: root/tuber
How: roasted
Where: open fields, landscaping
When: fall, winter
Nutritional Value: calories

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are arranged in a basal rosette at the base and alternately along the stem.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are linear to lanceolate, with lengths varying from 1 to 3 inches and widths about 0.1 to 0.6 inches.

Leaf Venation: Venation is parallel, with a central vein prominent on each leaf.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margins are entire, with no serrations or lobes.

Leaf Color: Leaves are typically a medium to dark green.

Flower Structure: The flowers are arranged in dense, spike-like clusters at the top of erect, stiff stems.

Flower Color: The flowers are typically purple, sometimes ranging to pink or white, with each individual flower small and tubular.

Fruit: The fruit is a small, dry, one-seeded achene.

Seed: Seeds are contained within the achenes, small and hard.

Stem: The stem is tall, erect, and unbranched, often with a rough texture.

Hairs: Leaves and stem can be covered in fine, grayish hairs.

Height: The plant can grow to a height of 2 to 4 feet.

Edible gayfeather tuber.

Young gayfeather plant (early June in Houston).

A stand of gayfeather plants.

Close-up of gayfeather stand.

Close-up of gayfeather flower.

Close-up of gayfeather flower before opening.

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

There are quite a few different species of Gayfeathers growing in stands across the fields, prairies, ditches, and woodland glades of Texas and North America. All are considered non-poisonous but only a few of them produce tubers big enough to be worth eating. Their tall, unbranching spikes start green, then erupt with many small, purple flowers, followed by browning as they dry. During the winter months clusters of these old stalks are easy spot, even through snow on the central plains. The drought-resistant Liatris spica are becoming popular in low-water xeriscapes and can often be found at big-box home improvement stores.

Gayfeather tubers continue to grow larger year after year but only the latest-year's portion is tender enough to eat, with the common species Liatris spica being considered the best. Memorize the location of the summer-blooming purple flower stalks for harvesting the tubers in the fall and winter. Once harvested, use these tubers as you would potatoes. They do well boiled or roasted.

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