Wildflower Tale-Shooting Stars


“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. IMG_3749Shooting 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.



Growing Conditions  

IMG_3719Dodecatheon 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 IMG_3722can 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  

IMG_5432The 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.

One legend says that the points of the flowers always lean to the west. The settlers heading to the open plains of the west used the flowers to IMG_0873guide them.

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:

March-Common Yarrow


January-Virginia Bluebell


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.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.


75 Replies to “Wildflower Tale-Shooting Stars”

  1. Donna, what a beauty is the Dodecatheon meadia shooting star. It looks like a seabird diving for its prey. I am more used to seeing the purple variety which I expect is a cultivated form.

    1. I had not see purple but pink and white are native…I like your thoughts about the seabird Alistair.

  2. Hi Donna…what a great, informative! I especially like the legend about the settlers using the flowers to guide them!

  3. A very neat wildflower. I had one bloom in my garden this year. I’ve never grown it before so appreciate all your info about it. They are beautiful in great masses.

  4. Hi Donna, this plant is very pretty and so interesting, I would never ever have guessed it belonged to the primrose family! I’ve seen some alliums flowering that way before, but anything else that I could think of.

    1. Alberto yes I did not think of the alliums that bloom the same. It is interesting why it is a primrose.

  5. What a little beauty! I haven’t noticed these out here in Washington. I love all the names that people give to plants, thank goodness for our latin!

  6. I was most interested in the information on bees. Dodecatheon meadia is a difficult flower to access for insects and appears very specialized. It makes sense it would be native bees pollinating it. I was surprised at the variety of bee size. I enjoyed learning this.

    1. Thanks Donna. Yes the bees and the pollination are fascinating…I find many wildflowers that are pollinated by native bees are so interesting.

  7. A very detailed account of this pretty spring flower. In the north with not too much blooming yet, I had a bee checking out my yellow gardening gloves on the weekend in hopes that it had some pollen hidden somewhere I guess.
    Dandelions might be considered a weed but at least they bloom early and the bees and other insects head straight for them.

    1. How funny Judith…bees are so cute sometimes…yes those dandelions help the bees. I had to pull so many as they were taking over and I have lots blooming…hope your weather has warmed and you are seeing more blooms.

  8. Lovely little plants – and as always I love the folklore. The meaning for a primrose is so beautiful.
    I also would have thought it was a relative of the snowdrop rather than primrose… so sweet x

  9. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this plant, but I really enjoyed hearing about the way it is pollinated, and that it was used as a guide to travel west. You always give such interesting facts.

  10. Very interesting. Quite a pretty flower! There seem to be several plants called ‘cowslips’. I’ve heard various family members from upstate NY refer to cowslips – now I’m wondering which ones they are referring to!

    1. I bet they are referring to the other more well known cowslip, primula….these are a great eastern wildflower.

  11. What a pretty flower! Our ephemerals are blooming now, too. Actually, everything is emerging and blooming all at once because of the delay. I’m sooo far behind on everything, including blog visits. Sorry. Talk to you soon!

    1. I understand being behind…I am always playing catch up…it got warm fast here so everything bloomed fast here.

  12. Very interesting read. I was wondering, as I started reading, why it was called a shooting star. Do you how flowers are classified as wild and non-wild flowers? Thanks.

    1. It is named for the way the flowers look like stars KL. Flowers that are native that grow out in the wild of the meadows or woods are called wildflowers…there are many non-natives that have naturalized in the wild and some consider them wildflowers.

  13. sweet wildflower, it must look fantastic in large drifts. I wonder why it has evolved to make bees struggle to get pollen.

    1. That is an interesting question Catmint…you would think it would want the bees to get at it easily.

  14. What a lovely flower with delicate blooms that truly are shooting stars! I enjoy learning more about some plants I do not have and sometimes I add them to the garden. These are such beauties.

  15. Hi Donna! Love this post. I grew dodecatheon when I was living in Portland, OR. I had just discovered them and had a few but then moved. Anyway, I’ve always remembered it probably because I love saying the name! I just like saying that word and on that note, I really enjoyed learning about the folklore for this plant. I’m scared to try it in my current garden because I don’t know that I have the right area…but maybe by my fountain. It is mostly in the shade…. Thanks again!

  16. I saw one for sale at the native plant sale and argued with myself about getting one. I love it, just wasn’t sure of the location — most of my shade is dry. I had no idea they leaned west, fun fact.

    1. Find a wet spot in spring (that dries in summer) and get one or 2 Janet…they will be perfect in your garden.

  17. Donna – That first photo is spectacular. I’ve never seen or heard of this flower before, its left me wondering if there are other flowers in my garden which can be used as compasses.

  18. I’m still waiting for mine to bloom, but I enjoy seeing yours. I’m sure I won’t have to wait long.

    1. Thanks Becky…how have you been. I am still so far behind and trying to catch up with so many blogs. Can’t wait to see how your garden is doing.

  19. This is a plant that I have always admired and have long wanted to add to my garden. How I wish that it didn’t require moist conditions! Late summer is especially dry here. I may break down and give it a try. You never know, right?

    1. Jennifer if you can find a moist spot in spring that is dry in summer with sun or part sun in spring and shade in summer then it will grow. I grow mine on the edge of a stand of ash trees that will soon come down. Since they go dormant in summer the spring conditions are more important and if you get lots of snow in winter, then it will do fine.

  20. Beautiful Donna! I am so envious. I tried growing some of these bareroot from Prairie Moon but they didn’t take. I will have to try again in another spot. I just love these! You have so many beautiful native spring flowers!

    1. Thanks Kathy….I really do love wildflowers and hope to get them to be in more drifts…I am planting more of these as well…they do sell them as potted plants from Easy Wildflowers.

  21. I first discovered trillium in Oregon, and then discovered it is growing here in Louisiana, too. Nature is so full of beauty and I enjoy it all. Very nice post. 🙂

  22. What a strange a beautiful little plant, I had never heard of it before, which I suppose isn’t surprising given that it is a US wildflower. Thank you Donna, it is really pretty.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Janet…we do have some unusual and beautiful wildflowers…and I have enjoyed planting them. I am on quest of discovery in my garden now to see each wildflower bloom.

  23. When I started reading, I was thinking that I had never seen the plant before. Then, I read the part about it being thought extinct in NY, and I understand why I haven’t seen it. How did you get yours? I successfully transplanted some bloodroot in my garden a couple of years ago; it is taking off. I think I would like to plant some of this as well.

    1. Jessica there are so many lovely wildflowers native to NY and this is a particularly lovely one. I got this at a native plant nursery years ago and I can’t quite remember which one.

      There are online sources like Easy Wildflowers. You will love it.

  24. Nice post Donna. I always look forward to seeing Dodecatheon in my garden. I think I still have a couple of weeks to wait.

    1. Patty how wonderful that you also grow these…I am adding more this year to increase my clump a bit more. Mine have come early (blooming this week) this year due to our unseasonable warm weather

  25. I loved all the information and pretty photos of this flower. It reminds me of a dog-tooth violet (Erythronium). Very nice post Donna!

  26. I love the pictures. I have a picture of this flower in purple which I have printed on canvas. I took it while hiking in Oregon.

    1. Thanks Steven….I love the purply pink version of this flower too although I have never seen one in the wild….must be gorgeous!

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