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Dodecatheon pulchellum

Dodecatheon pulchellum

Dodecatheon pulchellum
Dodecatheon pulchellum subspecies pulchellum (Shooting Star)
Primulaceae (Primrose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Streamsides, wetlands. Summer.
Above: Lone Mesa State Park, June 3, 2015.
Left: Turkey Springs Trail north of Pagosa Springs, June 26, 2007.

Shooting Star has an exotic flower that attracts the attention of even those who have no interest in flowers.  The magenta, white, and yellow petals flare back behind the stamen filaments that are united around the protruding style. (See the top and next photographs.)  At the height of flowering a half dozen or more flowers may be open at the same time on each plant and it is common for dozens or even hundreds of plants to line a stream or flow down a moist wooded hillside. Although Dodecatheon pulchellum can be so abundant in much of its range, it is a rare plant in the Four Corners region. The photographs show the only two populations that I know of in the Four Corners region.

Linnaeus named this genus in 1753, giving it the Greek name for "twelve gods", an allusion to Pliny's name for a Primrose which was thought to be protected by twelve gods.  

The species has undergone many name changes since Constantine Rafinesque first named it Exinia pulchella in 1840 from a specimen collected by Thomas Drummond in the Rockies, probably in the mid-1820s.  Its present name was given by Elmer Merrill in 1948.

Dodecatheon pulchellum
Dodecatheon pulchellum subspecies pulchellum (Shooting Star)
Primulaceae (Primrose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Streamsides, wetlands. Summer.
Turkey Springs Trail north of Pagosa Springs, June 26, 2007.

Dodecatheon pulchellum
Dodecatheon pulchellum subspecies pulchellum (Shooting Star)
Primulaceae (Primrose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Streamsides, wetlands. Summer.
Turkey Springs Trail north of Pagosa Springs, June 26, 2007.

Dodecatheon pulchellum
Dodecatheon pulchellum subspecies pulchellum (Shooting Star)
Primulaceae (Primrose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Streamsides, wetlands. Summer.
Lone Mesa State Park, June 3, 2015.

Leaves are thick, 1-8 inches long (here, about 2 inches), in a tight basal rosette, often, as here, obscured by many other plants. Note the light brown, numerous, leafless flower stems.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Dodecatheon pulchellum