Dodecatheon meadia (Prairie Shooting Star)
|Also known as:
|part shade, sun; average to dry soil; open prairie, savanna, hillsides, open woods, outcrops, railroads
|April - June
|8 to 20 inches
|Wetland Indicator Status:
|GP: FAC MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):
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A single cluster of 6 to 40 (rarely more) nodding, long-stalked, rose-pink to lavender to white blossoms at the tip of a smooth, slender stem. Petals are fused at the base into a downward facing tube with wavy rings of pinkish-purple, white, yellow and maroon around the base. 5 rounded oblong lobes, ½ to 1 inch long, are folded tightly back against the tube and are sometimes a bit twisted. Slender, yellowish to purplish stamens are tightly pressed against a single, long purplish green style projecting from the center. The arching stalk of each flower is usually smooth, rarely glandular hairy. Flowers become erect after pollination.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are all basal, oval-elliptic to lance-oblong, 1½ to 12 inches long, ½ to 3 inches wide, hairless and toothless, rounded at the tip and tapering to a short winged stalk. Flowering stems are single or multiple from the base, hairless and green to purple.
Fruit is an erect, oval to cylindric capsule ¼ to nearly ¾ inch long, the five lance-shaped calyx lobes around the base and the slender style still attached at the tip but eventually disintegrating. The capsule is thick-walled and dries to a dark reddish brown.
While Prairie Shooting Star, known as Primula meadia in some references, is readily available in the nursery trade, it is a very rare sight in the wild in Minnesota with only a single known location in Mower County. According to the DNR, it was first discovered in a prairie strip along a railroad in 1980, but this lone population was nearly wiped out 10 years later after the railroad was abandoned and road construction and agricultural development ensued. The remaining population is very small and still at risk from pesticide drift from nearby fields and roadsides, unauthorized mowing, and even poaching. It was listed as a MN Special Concern species in 1984 and elevated to Endangered in 1996. It is nearly indistinguishable from the related and more common (in Minnesota) Jeweled Shooting Star (Dodecatheon amethystinum). While the flowers of D. meadia are typically lighter colored than D. amethystinum, the most reliable differences are the fruits, which are thin-walled, flexible, and dry to a light yellowish to reddish for D. amethystinum, and thick-walled, firm, and dry to a dark reddish brown for D. meadia. Habitat is also a good indicator, with D. amethystinum found in more shaded cliffs and forests, and D. meadia preferring more open ground.
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Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in a private garden in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Christopher David Benda taken in Illinois.
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