June 17, 2011

Hemaris thysbe and the Liatris ligulistylis

Hemaris thysbe (clearwing hummingbird moth)
visits the Liatris ligulistylis (Rocky Mountain blazing star). June 17, 2011.
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There's a Hemaris thysbe on the Liatris ligulistylis. I can't say that three times unless I've had three cups of coffee. It also helps to be wide awake so I can tell the difference between a hummingbird and a hummingbird moth.

Hemaris thysbe is better known as a clearwing hummingbird moth. Liatris ligulistylis is better known as Rocky Mountain or meadow blazing star. Both are natives, though the blazing star is typically found west of Missouri.

Host plants for the moth include honeysuckle (lonicera), hawthorn, cherry and plum (prunus) trees. The moth enjoys the nectar of blazing star and other garden favorites such as bee balm and phlox. Just like a butterfly, this moth starts as a caterpillar and undergoes metamorphosis.

Blazing star grows 4-6 feet in cultivated gardens. I provide supplemental water, but it survived the 2010 summer of 90 days over 90°F like a trooper. This blazing star can be grown from seeds and is suitable for zones 4a-9b. I have good, strong blooms this year, so I hope to gather seeds before the Goldfinch.

Blazing star is not rabbit resistant. I have to spray the base of this plant with repellent to keep the lumberjacks from chopping it down. This is the second year for my plant and the bunnies munched it quite a bit when it was first planted. It grows rapidly if you can keep the rabbits away during the growth spurt in spring.

I cannot say for sure if the liatris is deer resistant. If the rabbits eat it, then there is a possibility that the deer will go for it when other food is scarce (or, when they are particularly lazy about finding food in the wild).

What about companion flowers?

Monarch butterflies are particularly fond of this nectar plant, so I have it growing just up the slope behind the swamp milkweed (asclepias incarnata).

Monarda 'Raspberry Wine' and 'Blue Stockings' and Echinacea 'Ruby Star' are the companions in bloom right now. I just cut back the rose campion as the blooms on that one were fading and it was time to collect seeds. The garden surrounds this plant, so I also have a chocolate joe-pye (dark leaves, will bloom white), milkweed and bog sage on the lower side. Russian sage is starting to bloom up on the same level beside the coneflowers. In other words, I grow about anything I want with this versatile perennial wildflower.

No matter how difficult to spell, type and pronounce and protect from rabbits, liatris ligulistylis has a permanent home in my garden.

Left front: liatris ligulstylis (meadow blazing star).
Right front: echinacea 'Ruby Star' (coneflower).
Back: monarda 'Raspberry Wine' (bee balm).

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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