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Liatris (pycnostachya)

David J. Horvath
Nursery Manager
Illinois Department of Natural Resources - Mason State Nursery
17855 N. CR 2400E
Topeka, Illinois 61567
309-535-3286 (fax)

Family Scientific Name: Asteraceae
Family Common Name: Sunflower family
Scientific Name: Liatris pycnostachya Michx.
Common Name: Tall Gayfeather
Species Code: LIAPYC
Ecotype: Central Illinois, 650 feet msl elevation
General Distribution: L. pycnostachya ranges from Wisconsin to Montana, south to Texas and Alabama.
Propagation Goal: plants
Propagation Method: seed
ProductType: Bareroot (field grown)
Stock Type: 1+0 bareroot
Time To Grow: 10 Months
Target Specifications: Height: n/a, herbaceous perennial.<br> Caliper: n/a, herbaceous perennial.<br> Root System: Healthy bareroot system from field grown crop.
Propagule Collection: Source of Propagules: Seed is collected by a custom designed combine from nursery stock. The plant flowers from approx. July 6 to July 25. Seed is harvested about Sept. 14.
Propagule Processing: Seed may be handled two different ways when harvesting. After drying, the entire stem, with seeds still attached, may be run through the Debearder or the seed may be stripped off the stem in the field, dried, then run through the Debearder. The later method produces less chaff to be seperated in the cleaning process.
It is important to keep the seed coats intact, so ensure the seed is not damaged by the Debearder brushes. Use the middle screen size in the Debearder, feed slowly, set the brushes all the way in. Cover the end of the hopper to control dust. Run the good seed back through the Debearder two more times. Next, take this seed and run it through the Crippen, with a top screen of 6, middle screen of 4x18, and bottom screen of 4x28. Crippen motor speed should be set on 30 and shaker on 1/2 speed. The good seed can then be run over the Frosberg Gravity Table or through the Jessee Aspirator.
This species can be cleaned to 60% purity with 17,857 seeds per ounce.
Pre-Planting Treatments: Field seed is sown in the fall after cleaning, therefore it does not require cold storage. If weather does not permit fall planting, store the seed dry, in cold storage at 34-36 degrees.
Growing Area Preparation/
Annual Practices for Perennial Crops:
Propagation Environment: Field grown in beds.

Propagation Method: Seed sown in 3-4 foot wide, raised beds.
Growing Media: Field grown seed is drilled in 3 or 4 foot wide, raised beds, consisting of a sandy loam.
Total Time to Harvest: Field grown crops take 10-12 months from time of sowing. This figure is increased to 18 months for field grown plants shipped in the spring.

Sowing Date: Field grown crops are sown in the fall once the seed is cleaned.
Sowing/Planting Technique: Field grown seed is drilled with the LoveSeeder at a rate of 2.7 ounces per 45 linear feet. Adjust the drill heights so that the seed is covered only 1 times its depth. The beds should be hydroseeded with a cool-season, annual grass to protect seed over the winter months.
Establishment Phase: Field grown plants should be monitored for germination. If the seed has not germinated by the first week of May, there has been a problem, ie, seed not planted at the correct depth, blown away, or bad seed lot. Weed the field grown plants by hand early to prevent competition.
Length of Establishment Phase: 1 month
Active Growth Phase: Field grown plants are topdressed twice, once in May and once in June with 13-13-13 at a rate of 200 lbs. per acre. This is done after the first true leaves appear. The fertilizer is irrigated in after application. Irrigation is run once or twice a week, depending on weather, and run for one to two hours.
Length of Active Growth Phase: 4 months
Hardening Phase: For field grown plants, reduce irrigation to slow the vegetative growth down in the fall.
Length of Hardening Phase: 1 month
Harvesting, Storage and Shipping: Field grown plants are lifted in late September to early November and again in the Spring if need be. The top growth should be mostly died down. Once this occurs, it is helpful to mow the tops to a more manageable size. This aids in the lifting process. Plants are undercut at 7-12 inches prior to lifting. While culling and grading is performed, the roots should be misted occasionally.
Storage Conditions: Depending on weather conditions, field grown plants may be lifted and shipped in the fall. However, time and labor may require spring shipment. Field grown stock is also stored in cool, dry storage, above freezing. Remove dead vegetation in the culling process, and place the plants in plastic-lined bags. Do not allow root systems to dry out.

Storage Duration: Approximately 4 to 6 months. Field grown bareroot plants may be shipped at any time as long as thereceiver has cold storage.
Length of Storage: 4 to 6 months


Blessman, Gary; Flood, Roberta Mountz; Horvath, David J.. 2001. Propagation protocol for production of Bareroot (field grown) Liatris pycnostachya Michx. plants 1+0 bareroot; Illinois Department of Natural Resources - Mason State Nursery Topeka, Illinois. In: Native Plant Network. URL: http://NativePlantNetwork.org (accessed 2021/09/19). US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, National Center for Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources.

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