SHOOTING STAR AMERICAN COWSLIP PRIDE OF OHIO
(Dodecatheon Meadia) Primrose family
Flowers - Purplish pink or yellowish white, the cone tipped with
yellow; few or numerous, hanging on slender, recurved pedicels in
an umbel at top of a simple scape 6 in. to 2 ft. high. Calyx
deeply 5-parted; corolla
of 5 narrow lobes bent backward and
upward; the tube very short, thickened at throat, and marked with
dark reddish-purple dots; 5 stamens united into a protruding
cone; 1 pistil, protruding beyond them. Leaves: Oblong or
spatulate 3 to 12 in. long, narrowed into petioles, all from
fibrous roots. Fruit: A 5-valved capsule on erect pedicels.
Preferred Habitat - Prairies, open woods, moist cliffs. Flowering
Season - April-May.
Distribution - Pennsylvania southward and westward, and from
Texas to Manitoba.
Ages ago Theophrastus called an entirely different plant by this
same scientific name, derived from dodeka = twelve, and theos =
gods; and although our plant is native of a land unknown to the
ancients, the fanciful Linnaeus imagined he saw in the flowers of
its umbel a little congress of their divinities seated around a
miniature Olympus! Who has said science kills imagination? These
handsome, interesting flowers so familiar in the Middle West and
Southwest, especially, somewhat resemble the cyclamen in oddity
of form, indeed, these prairie wildflowers are not unknown in
florists' shops in Eastern cities.
Many flowers like the shooting star, cyclamen, and nightshade,
with protruding cones made up of united stamens, are so designed
that, as the bees must cling to them while sucking nectar, they
receive pollen jarred out from the end of the cone on their
undersides. The reflexed petals serve three purposes: First, in
making the flower more conspicuous; secondly, in facilitating
access to nectar and pollen; and, finally, in discouraging
crawling intruders. Where the short tube is thickened, the bee
finds her foothold while she forces her tongue between the anther
tips. The nectar is well concealed and quite deeply seated,
thanks to the rigid cone. Few bee workers are flying at the
shooting star's early blooming season. Undoubtedly the female
bumblebees, which, by striking the protruding stigma before they
jar out any pollen, cross-fertilize it, are the flower's
benefactors; but one frequently sees the little yellow puddle
butterfly clinging to the pretty blossoms.
Very different from the bright yellow cowslip of Europe is our
odd, misnamed blossom.
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