Henderson’s Shooting Star

Another early spring wildflower found in early April on Lower Table Rock near Medford OR (Jackson County) is Henderson’s shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii). Some plant indices now classify D hendersonii as Primula hendersonii, while others retain the older designation. Since my previous shooting star posts used the genus Dodecatheon, I will continue to do so for now.

Not only are two scientific classifications current in the literature, Henderson’s shooting star has many other common names including broad-leaved shooting star, mosquito bills and sailor caps. What to call a plant can be confusing.

A member of the Primrose Family, this perennial native grows in dry, grassy meadows and open woods below 6,500 feet. Henderson’s shooting star can be found in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California. One of the earliest wildflowers to bloom in the spring, it is dormant by early summer and dies back to the ground.

Arising from a network of rhizomes, Henderson’s shooting star has a rosette of basal leaves and an erect reddish or purplish stem. At flowering time rice-like bulblets are present among the roots. The leaves are broadly oval with abruptly tapering petioles (stalks).

The Henderson’s shooting star inflorescence is a terminal umbel arising from a peduncle (stalk of the inflorescence). The magenta or deep lavender (occasionally white) flowers have parts arranged in fours or fives, often on the same plant. The petals (corolla) and sepals (calyx) are bent or reflexed back sharply exposing red-purple stamens tightly clasping the pistil. The number of stamens in a flower is the same as the number of petals. The ovary is superior and there is a single style. The stigma comes to a pointed tip. There is a band of yellow/white between the petal lobes and the stigma tube. Each flower has a pedicel (stalk).

Henderson’s shooting star fruits are capsules.

“Buzz pollination” occurs in shooting stars. There is no nectar. The anthers shed pollen into the stamen tube. As the bee, attracted by color, clasps the stamen tube searching for nectar, the pollen is dislodged by sound waves set up by the bee’s buzzing and falls onto the bee.

Louis Forniquet Henderson (1853 – 1942), the first botany professor at the University of Idaho, is honored by the species name.

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3 Responses to Henderson’s Shooting Star

  1. Lin Erickson says:

    I love those! Something happened to the ones growing along our driveway…
    sure miss them.

  2. tonytomeo says:

    Ah, I remember other related specie of this. I think we learned it as Dodecatheon as well. I sort of like that name because it sounds impressive. Ours were pale white, but those that I saw in a nursery that grew natives had some that were almost as brightly colored as yours. If I remember correctly, there was one that was pale lavender pink as well.

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