Dodecatheon hendersonii - Shooting Stars

Photo by Bill LaHaye

This month's plant, Shooting Stars, blooms late January through March, maybe longer if the rains persist. It is in the Primulaceae - Primrose Family. Small at only 3 to 12 inches tall the flowers are striking and fun for kids of all ages as they are "inside out" with the business end pointed out front and the petals going backwards. You can find Shooting Stars in our SF Natural Areas such as Bernal Heights and Glen Park and in San Bruno Mountain and the Presidio parks on rocky north facing slopes among the grasses and forbs in full sun. After the winter's rains the leaves die back and the plant goes dormant for the summer.

Apparently this flower is buzz pollinated. That means that bees hang on to the petals and as the bees beat their wings to get on the flower the firmly attached pollen is dislodged via the vibrations and stick on the bees.

The origin of the genus name, Dodecatheon comes from the Greek word dodeka for "twelve" and theos for "gods". It was named by Pliny, a Roman naturalist and writer, who thought the cluster of flowers looked like an assembly of the twelve important gods of the Roman world.

Native Californian Uses: The Yuki ate the leaves and roots after roasting them in ashes. Flowers were used by the Pomo as ornaments for dances and hung on baby baskets as a sleep aid.