Button Snakeroot

Liatris spicata

Herbs gallery - Button Snakeroot

Common names

  • Button Snakeroot
  • Button Snakewort
  • Dense Blazing Star
  • Gayfeather
  • Spiked Blazing Star
  • Spiked Gayfeather

Button snakeroot plants are also known as gayfeather and blazing star. This plant belongs to genus Liatris, which is a member of a large plant family, called Asteraceae and also referred to as Compositae. The button snakeroot plant is in bloom from the end of summer to fall. This plant can be seen grown in gardens receiving full sunlight. The blooms of plants belonging to the genus Liatris produce several minute flowers, which seem to be a single large flower. This is something what pollinators love. Liatris plants bear purple or rose-hued flowers that appear to be very similar to feather boas that are held atop many spikes. Each plant of this genus has several flowering spikes. On the other hand, the leaves of these plants are very slender and not noticeable easily.

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The button snakeroot plant (scientific name Liatris spicata) is somewhat tall and bears very attractive flowering spikes. When planted in a border, these flowering spikes look wonderful. Generally, this plant is cultivated by people because it possesses certain properties that keep deer away. Liatris spicata plants also attract a lot of humming birds and butterflies to gardens where they are grown.

Aside from borders, this plant also looks wonderful when it grows in some segments of a meadow/ prairie wild-life landscape. In addition, the fresh as well as dried flowers of button snakeroot too are very attractive. At present, Liatris spicata cultivars bearing white and pink flowers are also available.

Liatris spicata is a moderately tall plant that grows up to a height of anything between 36 inches (90 cm) and 48 inches (120 cm). Plants of this species spread over 10 inches (25 cm) to 20 inches (50 cm). Button snakeroot plants have a straight and clump-like growth. The base of the plant is tufted, which may give rise to one or several flowering stalks. Aside from the tall varieties of button snakeroot, small cultivars, which grow up to a height of 18 inches (45 cm) to 24 inches (60 cm) are also available.

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The leaves of button snakeroot plant are like grass and linear, growing up to lengths of 12 inches (30 cm) at the plant's base. The width of the leaves become narrower towards their tip. The leaves remain green during the period between spring and autumn.

Parts used

Flowers, roots.

Uses

Native Americans have been using button snakeroot (Liatris spicata) for therapeutic purpose for a long time. This herb is known to possess carminative, expectorant, diuretic, sudorific and stimulant properties. In addition to these utilities of the herb, members of the Cherokee community have been using this herb in the form of an analgesic to alleviate back and limb pain. On the other hand, the Menominee have used button snakeroot for treating a "weak heart". Among the different parts of the Liatris spicata, the root of this herb is used most often.

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Aside from the above discussed uses of button snakeroot, Native Americans also used this herb for treating abdominal pains, swelling, colic/ spasms and even snake bites. In present times, people use this herb to treat sore throat. An infusion of the root is used as a gargle for this purpose. In addition, this herb is also used in potpourri and in the form of an effective insect repellent.

Liatris spicata plants possess diuretic properties, in addition to having emmenagogue, stimulant and tonic attributes. A decoction prepared from the herb is very effective in treating gleet, gonorrhea and nephritic diseases. The standard dosage of the decoction varies from 2 fluid ounces to 4 fluid ounces taken thrice or four times daily. This herb is also a well-known herbal remedy for conditions like amenorrhea, dysmenorrhoea, scrofula, after-pains and other health problems. The decoction is also used in the form of a gargle to cure chronic throat irritation, sore throat and to relax the tissues. The decoction is administered as an injection form to effectively cure leucorrhoea.

This herb is soothing for the stomach and is also known to be useful to some extent in treating dyspepsia related to renal torpor. Aside from alleviating spasmodic bowel affections and colic, especially in children, button snakeroot also has some reputation for effectively treating conditions like pain and debility in the lumbar region. Together with Aletris farinose and Lycopus virginicus this plant is also known to be helpful in curing Bright's disease. A decoction prepared with equal portions of all these three herbs is said to be useful for providing relief from this condition. This herb possesses alexipharmic powers, which is very useful in treating venomous snake bites. When one is bitten by such snakes, people residing in the southern states crush the plant's bulbous roots and externally apply them to the bite area. In addition, they also add the decoction prepared from the plant to milk and drink it to neutralize the venoms.

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Aside from the above mentioned use of Liatris spicata, this herb is also employed for healing wounds and treating insect bites. This plant works wonderfully when it is chewed. Chewing the plant helps to stimulate saliva flow, in addition to helping digestion. Button snakeroot can be substituted for senega and the results would still be excellent.

Habitat and cultivation

Button snakeroot (Liatris spicata) is grown in several countries across the globe in the form of a garden flower. This plant is mainly cultivated for its attractive purple-hued flowers. Some cultivars may also produce white or pink-hued flowers. The plants are in bloom between the period July and August or September. The flowering, however, depends on the location where these plants are grown.

Liatris spicata plants thrive best in full sun and well-drained soil. These two conditions are essential to prevent the plant from rotting. It is worth noting that button snakeroot also has a preference for damp soil condition. Nevertheless, this plant cannot tolerate moist soil during the winter months. At the same time, Liatris spicata plants can also endure some shade and drought conditions. It is, however, important to water the plants during their first growing season, as this will help to develop robust roots. To some extent button snakeroot can also tolerate poor soils, but they need to be moist. These plants have a preference for fertile soils. They can also endure humidity as well as summer heat.

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Button snakeroot can also be propagated from its corms, which are same as tubers and bulbs. In addition, people also grow this plant from its seeds. You can also purchase young button snakeroot plants from nurseries and garden centers.

If you want to propagate button snakeroot plants (Liatris spicata) from their seeds, it is advisable that you sow the seeds at the beginning of spring. The seeds can be sown both indoors as well as outdoors. The seeds normally take anything between 20 days and 45 days to germinate. Divide the large seedling clumps immediately after the leaves emerge. Ideally, these seedlings should be planted at a distance of 12 inches to 15 inches from one another. Providing adequate space to the plants help them to receive the required amount of air and sunlight, which are essential to prevent the development of various potential diseases, including Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (stem rot), Septoria liatridis, Phyllosticta liatridis (leaf spots), Erysiphe cichoracearum (powdery mildew), Puccinia liatridis, Coleosporium laciniariae (rusts), and Verticillium albo-atrum (wilting).

If you are propagating this species from its seeds, usually these plants will not bloom till they are in their second year of growth. In case you are changing the soil, you need to bear in mind that button snakeroot has a preference for soils with high amounts of calcium and magnesium. At the same time, the soil should not contain much phosphorus and potassium.

When grown in gardens, button snakeroot plants (Liatris spicata) grow extremely well provided they are planted separately as border plants. As this plant has a vertical growth, it offers an excellent contrast with the plants that have broad and mounded leaves. On the other hand, planting Liatris spicata in large sweeps will do very well when grown in informal gardens. The fresh as well as dried button snakeroot flowers can be used effectively as cut flowers. The aroma of dried Liatris spicata flowers is similar to that of vanilla.

Usual dosage

Therapeutically, you can use button snakeroot in the form of a decoction or as a tincture.

Button snakeroot decoction: You can prepare a decoction with this herb by boiling one heaping teaspoon of the root in one cup (250 ml) water. Take this formulation in dosage of 2 ounces thrice or four times daily. For treating snakebites, you can also boil the root in milk instead of water.

Button snakeroot tincture: The standard therapeutic dosage of this formula is anything between half teaspoon and one teaspoon daily.

Side effects and cautions

Despite the various health benefits offered by button snakeroot (Liatris spicata), use of this plant for therapeutic purposes may result in a number of unwanted side effects. In fact, this plant may be responsible for allergic reactions, especially in people who are susceptible to plants belonging to the Asteraceae/ Compositae family. Plants belonging to Asteraceae/ Compositae family include chrysanthemums, daises, marigolds, ragweed and several others. People who suffer from allergies should first consult their physician or healthcare providers and only take this herb after they approve its use.

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