White Shooting Star

This has been a wonderful spring for shooting stars (Dodecatheon jeffreyi) – they are blooming in profusion, including in areas where I have never seen them before. Several days ago while walking in a meadow (near Ash Creek in Lassen County CA) that was covered in wildflowers, including lavender shooting stars, I noticed two white shooting star plants about ten feet apart.

There is a white variety of shooting star (Dodecatheon dentatum). However, these shooting star plants with white flowers were not D. dentatum. The “true” white shooting star has deep red anthers and wavy or toothed leaf edges, which the pictured flowers do not possess.

Sporadically in plant populations a mutation will occur that affects anthocyanin (blue or purple pigment) production resulting in a white, or “albino”, flower. The odds of two nearby plants spontaneously mutating are very slight. Probably an original white plant with a color mutation was fertilized with normal lavender or purple pollen and produced seeds. Albinism is recessive. As the shooting stars continue to propagate over the years,  a very few plants with recessive white genes will be fertilized by white-recessive pollen, resulting in a white flower.  Thus in an area with many normally pigmented flowers, the occurrence of a few “color forms” is thought to result from a first generation cross between a plant with color mutation and a normal plant.

I do not know if this is the cause of the two white shooting star plants near Ash Creek. They are beautiful wildflowers and were exciting to find.

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