Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Henderson's Shooting Star, DODECATHEON HENDERSONII

from the the April 13, 2009 Newsletter, issued from Siskiyou National Forest west of Grants Pass, Oregon:

Approaching my new base on the one-lane gravel road snaking up and up a mountainside, through the car-door window I was gratified to see wildflowers blooming on the wet, spongy, deeply shadowed forest floor. Though abundant, they were "classic" wildflowers, nothing weedy or plain-looking about them, with showy, violet- pink blossoms nodding on slender stems arising from rosettes of glossy, waxy leaves. You can see one above.

That's the Henderson's Shooting Star, DODECATHEON HENDERSONII, and you can see that its blossoms are something special. First, the flowers dangle from recurved stems so that what's usually the flower's "top" -- stamens, the slender style tipped with its stigma -- points earthward. Therefore, the blackish items at the bottom of the picture are grown-together male stamens while the slender thing projecting downward from the center of the cylinder the stamens form is the feminine, stigma-tipped style. The five violet-pink corolla lobes "should" curve downward cupping the sexual parts inside them but instead curve backward and upward.

In the Northern Hemisphere if you see a vibrantly colored flower like this with a yellowish center and starkly pigmented anthers and stamens arising opposite the corolla lobes, not alternating with them, a good first-bet is that you have a member of the Primrose Family, the Primulaceae, and that's the case here.

To confirm that the stamens arise opposite the corolla lobes you need to know that the filament -- the sticklike stem holding the anther -- is roughly wrinkled crosswise and its tissue extends up between the stamen's two anther-halves. The anther-half, or locule, of one stamen touches the anther-half of the contiguous stamen.

Henderson's Shooting Stars occur from California north to southern British Columbia and Idaho. It is "summer deciduous," which means that during the soon-to-arrive summer dry season it'll die back to the ground.