“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” ~William Butler Yeats
Spring temperatures are staying above freezing and the warm daytime sun is coaxing the wildflowers out of their winter slumber. Many of my favorites are blooming: trillium, trout lily, hepatica, bloodroot and Virginia bluebells. These lovely early spring flowers will bloom and fade as if they had never appeared. One of my late-spring favorites among the wildflowers is Dodecatheon meadia or Shooting Stars. It is a most unusual flower that rises from the earth on a foot long stalk.
Dodecatheon meadia, which is part of the Primrose Family or Primulaceae, is also an ephemeral and will disappear with summer’s heat. Shooting Stars is also called Pride-of-Ohio, Roosterheads, Sailor-caps, Mosquito Bill, Star Shower, Prairie Pointer, or the most common name of Eastern Shooting Star. This flower is also closely related to garden cyclamen and sometimes called American cowslip.
At the top, the stalk are arching branches, each ending in a flower. Each flower has swept-back petals that converge to a point at the cluster of yellow stamens giving the flower the appearance of a shooting star. Flower vary in color from white to pink to light purple. There is no floral scent. Dodecatheon meadia has no serious insect or disease problems. It can be used for cut or dried flowers, and when planted in the garden as a ground cover it will naturalize in the shade garden.
Dodecatheon meadia grows best in moist, humusy soils in part shade during spring. It is best to avoid poorly draining, wet soils, especially in winter. A cooler spring will keep the flower blooming longer.
Find a nice shady or dappled shady area in a native plant, wildflower, woodland or rock garden. Great companions are Bloodroot, Lady Fern, Jack in the Pulpit, Foam Flower and Wild Ginger.
The best way to propagate the plant is by division. You can dig up mature crowns in the fall, when the plant is dormant. The seed is very fine and the seedlings take a long time to grow. Very fine seed germinates, but seedlings grow very slowly. Although if you leave the seed it will produce a a nice colony as wind will carry the seeds several feet away.
Where Are They Found
Shooting Stars is a native plant that can be found in moist, open woods, along shady stream banks, on rocky slopes or dry to wet prairies. You can see the plant throughout the Eastern and central United States although these days due to the disruption of its habitat you will see these less and less in the wild. This plant was found in large drifts throughout prairies during pioneer days.
In the South, Dodecatheon meadia prefers a woodland setting for the shade while in the North it can tolerate more sun with adequate moisture.
The genus is largely found in North America and part of northeastern Siberia.
Many states list Dodecatheon meadia as a rare, protected or endangered species: Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and New York. Actually in NY it is thought they are almost completely gone which is why I am glad I have planted some.
Benefits to Wildlife
The odd-shaped flowers of Dodecatheon meadia hold on to their pollen making it difficult to obtain. Queen bumblebees will visit and obtain pollen from the flowers using ‘buzz pollination’ where the bees rapidly vibrate their thoracic muscles. Other bees visiting the flowers are Anthophorine bees, Eucerine Miner bees, and Green Metallic bees to collect pollen and fertilize the plant as the flower has no nectar.
The seeds are too small to be of interest to birds, and the plant is said to be deerproof although other critters may feed on the foliage or use the foliage as cover.
Folklore and Tales
The history behind the name of this plant is interesting. Dodeca means twelve, and Theos means God. It was believed that the plant was protected by the twelve major Greek gods.
Since the plant does not have a particular meaning, I used the Language of Flowers for a primrose since it is part of that family. Its meaning is young love, early youth and I can’t live without you.
The white-flowering D. meadia f. album received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
I am linking in for Wildflower Wednesday hosted by Gail@Clay and Limestone.
“To create a little flower is the labour of ages.” ~William Blake
Check out other posts in the series, Wildflower Tale:
Next up on the blog: Next Monday it will be time to wrap up the garden and see what happened in April. Then it will be time for another Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day that should be very full of blooms. My book review for May will deal with annuals. The garden season has been very busy and my sore muscles are telling the tale. I hope you will join me for all the excitement that is sure to happen in May, my favorite month.
I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.
I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current on April 30th.
As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.
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