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News Species Spotlight: New England blazing star

MassWildlife's Species Spotlight for September is the New England blazing star. Learn more about this persevering flower, how MassWildlife biologists are working to protect this species of special concern, and what you can do to help.
9/01/2020
  • Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
  • MassWildlife's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program

Media Contact for Species Spotlight: New England blazing star

Marion Larson, MassWildlife

New England blazing star

The year 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA)! To celebrate, MassWildlife will be highlighting one rare species each month as a Species Spotlight. Through the implementation of MESA, MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program conserves and protects the most vulnerable animals and plants of Massachusetts and the habitats upon which they depend. Stay up to date on how MassWildlife is celebrating this important milestone by visiting mass.gov/30MESA

Description

Common name: New England blazing star
Scientific name: Liatris novae-angliae
Size: Grows up to 2.6 feet tall, flower clusters on short stems (peduncles) ½ to 2½ inches long arising from the main stem
Range: Found only in New England states, New York, and historically known from New Jersey
MA conservation status: Special concern
Federal conservation status: Not listed, but considered a regional endemic and globally declining

Fun facts

  • Although considered primarily a coastal species, New England blazing star has been found as far west as Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties of Massachusetts in small inland barrens and grasslands.
  • This plant can successfully grow in sandplain grasslands, heathlands, and maritime shrublands where it has lots of sun, bare sandy loam soils, and not too much competition.
  • This perennial plant develops a thick corm which allows it to remain dormant during periods of severe drought and resprout when conditions are suitable. It has been nicknamed the “lazarus plant” because of this adaptation for survival.
  • The bright purple flowers bloom in August and September and attract bees, butterflies, and numerous other native pollinators. It’s considered an important nectar plant for the monarch butterfly.
  • The hard coated seed is attached to a cluster of tawny hairs that help facilitate wind dispersal into suitable open habitats. 

Threats and conservation

  • A portion of the species historic habitat for the New England blazing star has been lost to development.
  • Encroachment of woody species, invasive plants, and lack of periodic disturbance will lead to loss of habitat for this plant. Periodic mowing and burning help maintain open habitats.
  • Many small roadside populations are dwindling because they are inadvertently mowed at the wrong time of year or invasive plants such as black swallow-wort are encroaching.
  • Periodic prescribed burns at the appropriate time of year on public and private conservation lands stimulate increased stem and flower production in New England Blazing Star. In addition, the bare soil areas created by burning provide important places for seeds to germinate.
  • Periodic prescribed burns conducted by MassWildlife and other conservation partners also cleanse plants of harmful moth larvae which eat the seeds of New England blazing star.
  • Small populations are vulnerable to overbrowsing by deer, which like to eat the purple flowering stalks and vegetation. Allowing regulated hunting for white-tailed deer in coordination with prescribed burning or mowing is an effective long-term strategy to maintain viable populations.
  • In permitted situations, moving the plants to a suitable habitat helps enhance dwindling populations. NHESP staff has undertaken successful translocations of blazing star at several important sites with vulnerable populations. 

How you can help

  • Let MassWildlife know when and where you have observed New England blazing star! Click here to report rare species to MassWildlife using either the online Vernal Pool Rare Species reporting system (VPRS) or a paper form.
  • MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) is responsible for the conservation and protection of over 400 rare animals and plants, including New England blazing star. NHESP's work is primarily funded through grants and donations from supportive citizens. Donate to NHESP today at mass.gov/support-nhesp

Media Contact for Species Spotlight: New England blazing star

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife 

MassWildlife is responsible for the conservation of freshwater fish and wildlife in the Commonwealth, including endangered plants and animals. MassWildlife restores, protects, and manages land for wildlife to thrive and for people to enjoy.

MassWildlife's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program 

The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program is responsible for the conservation and protection of hundreds of species that are not hunted, fished, trapped, or commercially harvested in the state, as well as the protection of the natural communities that make up their habitats.
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