Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shooting Star, Jewel of the Woods

Shooting Star, Jewel of the Woods

Yesterday I was delighted to come across a quiet and remote hillside filled with blooming shooting stars. These beautiful blossoms grow in abundance in the foothills and woodlands near our home and cabin. As a child, I can remember many 'flower trips' with my mother and sister. We were in search of spring flowers, and the Shooting Star was always the STAR of the show! My sister and I would enjoy gathering flowers from woods and fields, adding Shooting Stars to the bouquet, and taking them home to enjoy on tabletop or windowsill.

Shooting Stars, or the Dodecatheon meadia, is known in different locations by a variety of picturesque common names. Sometimes called Indian Chief, Pride-of-Ohio, American Cowslip, Roosterheads, Birdbills, Johnny Jump, or Shuttle Cocks, my favorite name is still the simple Shooting Star.

The Shooting Star comes from the Greek, meaning 12 gods. This mostly North American flower is a member of the primrose family. There are more than 30 species of shooting stars in the world, most of which grow in western North America. Bumblebees are responsible for pollinating these cheerful stars which bloom from mid-April until June. Truly ephemerial, the Shooting Star disappears by July except for a few ripening seed pods. Contractile roots grow deep into the ground, protecting the plant from the heat of summer, drought, and trampling. The following spring, the beautiful flowers are again produced for all to enjoy. In addition to new growth via the plant root system, viable seeds scattered and worked into soil produce new plants, although it takes about six years before the plants are large enough to be noticed. Generally these plants bloom by their seventh year.

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