Plants 30-180 cm. Corms globose. Stems hispidulous-puberulent. Leaves: basal (usually withering before flowering) and proximal cauline 1-nerved, broadly oblanceolate to elliptic- or lanceolate-spatulate to linear-lanceolate, 80-250 × (4-)6-25 mm, gradually or abruptly reduced distally, essentially glabrous or sparsely or densely puberulent-hispidulous, ± gland-dotted (distal especially). Heads in loose, spiciform arrays. Peduncles 0 or (ascending to spreading or deflexed) 1-5(-10) mm. Involucres campanulate-hemispheric to turbinate-campanulate, (9-)10-16 × 10-20 mm. Phyllaries usually in 4-5 series, (outer or outer and middle usually reflexed) broadly obovate to oblong-spatulate, unequal, essentially glabrous, margins with relatively broad, whitish-hyaline, irregular to erose or lacerate borders (especially on the distal 1/3), strongly bullate (with a sharp, low, rounded buttress delimiting the hyaline border), apices usually rounded to subtruncate. Florets (14-)18-24(-30); corolla tubes pilose inside. Cypselae (3.5-)4.5-6 mm; pappi: lengths ± equaling corollas, bristles barbellate. 2n = 20.
Plants of Liatris aspera from the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas have consistently sparsely to densely puberulent-hispidulous leaves (var. aspera); those to the east usually have glabrous leaves (var. intermedia); variation in vestiture occurs in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana and identities in this large area would have to be arbitrary or typological if varieties were formally recognized. Variety salutans was recognized by Shinners on the basis of its deflexed (versus horizontal or ascending) heads; such plants occur in Texas, western Louisiana, and adjacent areas of Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Short-hairy, or glabrous throughout, 4-15 dm; lowest lvs 5-40 נ1-4.5 cm, long-petiolate; cauline lvs 25-90 below the infl; heads (10-) ±numerous in an elongate-spiciform infl, or the peduncles occasionally more elongate and to 5 cm; invol 8-15 mm, campanulate or subhemispheric, glabrous, its bracts loosely spreading or squarrose, tending to be bullate, often purplish upward, with conspicuous, lacerate, often crisped, scarious margins that are sometimes folded under; fls 14-35 per head; cor hairy toward the base within; pappus barbellate; 2n=20. Dry, open places and thin woods, especially in sandy soil; N.D. to Okla. and Tex., e. to Mich. and Miss., and occasionally to s. Ont., O., w. Va. and n. Fla. Aug.-Oct.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.