Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Shooting star

One of the very handsome spring flowers in our prairies and open forest glades is the shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia). It's among one of the early flowering species in our prairies preceded only by the prairie lousewort, blue violet, and strawberry. A rosette of shining green leaves pops up and then produces a flowering scape 20-40 cm tall. The pendant flowers with the reflexed corolla, which can be white to pink to purple, produce the shooting star. Anyone familiar with bumblebees recognized one of their flowers right away, for example, compare this to a tomato flower. The conical whorl of anthers, each opening by a terminal pore, have their pollen removed when a bumblebee hanging upside down under the flower buzzes their flight muscles to hit a frequency that vibrates the pollen out onto the bee. Pollination occurs when at a subsequent flower the bee's fuzzy belly with a nice dusting of pollen contacts a stigma protruding from the cone of stamens. And like other spring ephemerals, the above ground parts die back by mid-summer leaving no trace.

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