Starflower is Blooming!

The leaves have been up for a while.  And now, so are the blossoms.


Starflower (Trientalis borealis) is an unusual star… a seven-pointed star.  Well, technically, it could be anywhere from five- to nine-pointed.  But most often seven.  Seven leaves in a whorl.  Seven petals.  Seven sepals.

Starflower Range MapStarflower is a plant of cool woods or high slopes where the soil is peaty, acidic.  It also goes by the common names May Star and Star of Bethlehem and was formerly referred to by the Latin name Trientalis americana.  It produces seeds, but can also spread by underground rhizomes, which is why if you find one, you often find many.

These sentences from a website piqued my curiosity:

Trientalis borealis is also subject to Smut fungus (Urocystis trientalis) which negatively affects all life stages of the herb (Piqueras 1999). The fungus is a species-specific pathogen that first appears as white spores on the underside of leaves followed in the late summer as black pustules on the leaves and stalks (Whigham and Chapa 1999). It is believed that systematic infection of the offspring may occur through stolons (Piqueras 1999). Infected shoots are preferred vegetation of voles (Clethrionomys glareolus) and scale insects (Arctothezia cataphracta). Their consumption greatly reduces the occurrence of infection*, which develops in autumn (Piqueras 1999), and could potentially select for higher disease resistance in Trientalis borealis (Whigham and Chapa 1999). (source)

*The emphasis is mine.  Curious that consumption of the plant (when it is infected) can actually strengthen the species, isn’t it?  Nature is wicked cool.

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7 thoughts on “Starflower is Blooming!

  1. I don’t know this flower but your map shows that it might grow here so I will look for it. Funny, I have some “Star of Bethlehem” but it’s a bulb. Thanks for introducing me to this fascinating flower.

  2. Definitely cool how nature naturally (no pun intended) controls infections/infestations like that. Which is why it is such a shame when we tip the balance with invasives which have not natural enemies. Have you seen the articles on the raspberry ants in Texas?

  3. That’s a pretty flower, and not all that similar to the one we call Starflower. I dug around a little bit, and turned up taxonomic confusion, as is so often the case. Last I looked, our Starflower was Trientalis borealis ssp. latifolia (I have some photos of it at, but looking at the Jepson manual online (the ultimate resource for California flower geekiness – it appears that it’s been reclassified and is now known as Broadleaf Starflower, T. latifolia. To add to everything, it’s been moved from Primulaceae (Primroses) to Myrsinaceae (Myrsines, a family I’ve never heard of). Fun stuff 🙂

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