Shooting Star

Another of my favorite spring wildflowers is the shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi). This early blooming perennial belongs to the primrose family and is related to the domestic cyclamens.

Found in wet meadows, grassy slopes and along stream banks, the lance-shaped leaves form large basal clumps connected by rhizomes. The deep red flowering stems are leafless. The flowers, to my mind, are spectacular. The five (sometimes four) magenta or lavender petals reflex backward (are sharply swept backward) and unite at the base in a short yellowish tube. The dark stamens (pollen bearing part of the flower) are more or less fused into a tube surrounding the style (the central portion of the female part of the flower). The flower does look like a comet or “shooting star” as the common name suggests.

Shooting stars are examples of “buzz pollination”. The pollen is released onto the stamen surrounding the style. From there the pollen can be dislodged by sound waves set up by the buzzing of bumblebees. The day that I took these pictures there were many bumblebees hovering about the flowers, however, I never did see one alight.

I read one report of the leaves being used for a potherb (the Thompsons’ Wild Food Plants of the Sierra). The only redeeming quality they assigned to the leaves was that they are not “bitter”. I nibbled a raw leaf and indeed it was not bitter – but there is nothing to recommend destroying such a beautiful and welcome spring flower for a few greens.

These shooting stars were located in a small meadow below Lake Britten Dam (Shasta County CA).

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5 Responses to Shooting Star

  1. Pingback: White Shooting Star | The Nature Niche

  2. ella taiko says:

    i was trying to find out what kind of shooting star was in the dry creek area of shasta county. I have seen a few different styles of petal. Most looked longer with a spiralling twirt to them. A very few looked more like the ones depicted in your photos. One year I saw a single clump of what looked like the padres style petals: short straight and radiant from a much wider circle. Was this genetic variation within the same species or another species or two of shooting star? I will try to append pics later…..

    • ella taiko says:

      oh yes, I enjoyed that tidbit about pollens being dislodged by the sound waves of the buzzing of bumblebees. Is this well known in the flower world or is this something you didn’t know till you yourself observed this? Either way its a lovely detail.
      ps.that’s twirl not “twirt” in my previous reply.

      • gingkochris says:

        “Buzz pollination” is a term that I encountered in several reference sources. I did not see this happen in the shooting stars, but occasionally when watching bees around other plants I believe I have seen the phenomenon.Or was it my vivid imagination?

    • gingkochris says:

      I know there are several species of shooting star that look very similar. Whether they hybridize or not I do know. According to the distribution maps for California there are no padres shooting stars in Shasta County. Wish I were a better botanist.

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