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Plant of the Month   ~~   MARCH 2008

updated on or about the 1st of each month


  • Common Name(s): Shooting Star, Padres' Shooting Star
  • Scientific Name: Dodecatheon clevelandii
  • Family: Primulaceae, Primrose family
  • Plant Type: Perennial herb
  • Size: less than 2 feet high, solitary plant
  • Common Habitat: open grassy areas, rocky meadows and outcroppings, sage scrub, chaparral

The flowers of Shooting Stars are quite dynamic-looking, resembling a wasp or a bird with purple wings. They are each about an inch in diameter, and have 5 petals which range in color from white to pink to lavendar to magenta, but start out yellow at the base. Most often the magenta-and-white beak-like stamens point downwards and petals point upwards, but some can also be found orienting the opposite. The plant blooms from February to April.

Shooting Star starts in early winter as a rosette of leaves, about a foot in diameter, growing close to the ground. The leaves are each about 3 inches long and spade-shaped. A solitary, sturdy, slightly hairy stalk arises from the leafy base and grows from a few inches to about a foot or more high. Near the top the stem branches to carry several-to-many nodding flowers. The plant commonly appears in moist soil in open places like meadows or other open spots alongside trails. The leaves die out in the heat of summer.

Dodecatheon means "12 gods". There is some debate whether this is a reference to it being a powerful medicine under the care of the 12 Olympian gods, or perhaps the possibility of having 12 flowers to represent these gods. Clevelandii refers to Daniel Cleveland, a lawyer, botanical collector, author, and founding member of the San Diego Natural History Society.

The photos on this page were taken on February 23, 2008, in a rocky meadow along the Mishe Mokwa / Sandstone Peak Trail, between Tri-Peaks and Split Rock.

Contributed by Liz Baumann

Curious what was featured in past Plants of the Month? Search the Archives.

Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Roadside Plants of Southern California, by Thomas J. Belzer
California Native Plants for the Garden, by Carol Bornstein, David Fross, and Bart O'Brien
California Herbal Remedies, by LoLo Westrich

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