The green links below add additional plants to the comparison table. Blue links lead to other Web sites.
enable glossary links
Dodecatheon conjugens

Bonneville shooting star, desert shootingstar, slim-pod shooting star

shooting star

Habit Plants 5–30(–40) cm; scape usually glabrous, sometimes glandular-puberulent proximally. Herbs perennial, not cushion- or mat-forming.

(or caudices) usually present;

roots fibrous, bulblets sometimes present.


not obvious at anthesis;

roots whitish;

bulblets absent.


(scapes) erect or nearly so, simple.


3–13(–18) × 0.7–2.5(–4) cm;

petiole slender (at least proximally);

blade narrowly oblanceolate to spatulate or obovate, base usually not decurrent onto stem, usually abruptly tapering to petiole, margins entire, surfaces glabrous or glandular-puberulent.

in basal rosettes, simple;

petiole ± winged, (sometimes sheathing);

blade linear to oval, base abruptly or gradually tapering to petiole, margins entire, dentate, or crenulate, (sometimes undulate), apex mostly acute to rounded, surfaces glabrous or glandular-pubescent or -puberulent.



bracts lanceolate to broadly lanceolate, 3–10 mm, glandular-puberulent.

usually umbels, 2–25(–125)-flowered, sometimes solitary flowers;

bracts usually ternate.


1–5 cm, glabrous or glandular-puberulent.

recurved, usually straight and longer in fruit.


calyx light green to yellowish, sometimes finely purple-speckled or -dotted, 5–12 mm, glabrous or glandular-puberulent, tube 2–6 mm, lobes 5, 3–7 mm;

corolla tube yellowish with purplish red, thin, wavy ring, lobes 5, usually magenta, sometimes white, 7–25(–35) mm;

filaments usually distinct, yellowish or dark maroon, 0.5–1.5 mm, rarely partially connate and tube 0.5–1.5 × 1.5–5 mm;

anthers 5–9 mm;

pollen sacs usually maroon or yellow, sometimes yellowish and speckled maroon, rarely with reddish purple to purple speckles, connective usually maroon, sometimes yellowish or light blue to whitish, transversely rugose;

stigma not enlarged compared to style.


sepals 4–5, usually green, calyx tubular, not keeled, glabrous or minutely glandular, lobes spreading to reflexed, usually longer than tube;

petals 4–5, white to pink or violet, or magenta to purple with yellowish and/or whitish base, often with purple, maroon, or reddish ring, corolla short-tubular, lobes strongly reflexed, length 2+ times tube, apex mostly acute;

stamens ± exserted;

filaments distinct or ± connate, forming tube;

anthers connivent.


tan, often striped with purple, usually operculate, rarely valvate, cylindric-ovoid, 8–17(–22) × 4–6(–8) mm, glabrous;

walls thin, pliable.

cylindric, dehiscence valvate or operculate and lid opening as 5(–10+) toothlike segments.


without membrane along edges.

50–200, dark brown to black, globose to ovoid or quadrate, sometimes with thin, membranous margins, irregularly alveolate, alveolae formed by collapse of minute bulbous cells.


= 22.


= 44.

Dodecatheon conjugens


from FNA
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from USDA
North America; n Mexico; e Asia (Russian Far East)
[BONAP county map]

Varieties 2 (2 in the flora).

Both Dodecatheon conjugens and D. poeticum occur in proximity in the Columbia River gorge. Some specimens here assigned to var. conjugens may have scattered, minute glands on the pedicels that might indicate past hybridization with D. poeticum (e.g., G. N. Jones 6286, ORE; R. R. Halse 3790, OSC, WTU). Dodecatheon poeticum is densely glandular not only on the pedicels, but also on the calyx and scape. The type of minute glandular puberulence seen on var. conjugens found along the Columbia River west of The Dalles is somewhat similar to that seen on var. viscidum in western Montana and Canada. Some plants referred here to D. conjugens have slightly connate filaments that may indicate some intergradation with D. pulchellum var. pulchellum. This suggestion is supported by the tendency in the same plants to have narrower leaves.

Some newly emerged flowers tend to have connectives that are less rugose than normal. This is particularly true of some populations in southern Alberta and, to a lesser degree, in Saskatchewan.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Primula Linnaeus sect. Dodecatheon (Linnaeus) Mast & Reveal

Species 17 (17 in the flora).

Members of Dodecatheon are widespread throughout much of North America, extending from northwestern Mexico to the Arctic in Alaska and northwestern Canada. Taxonomic boundaries between species are sometimes blurred, and the variation within the more widespread species (such as the eastern D. meadia and the western D. pulchellum) can be bewildering. Nearly all recognized species have an array of synonyms, and some names used in the past have proven to be illegitimate or misapplied, adding to the nomenclatural morass.

The genus can be subdivided into two groups (but not the three recognized by H. J. Thompson 1953), based primarily on the rugose (sect. Purpureo-tubulosa R. Knuth) versus smooth (sect. Dodecatheon) anther connective (A. R. Mast et al. 2004). Species with an enlarged stigma (notably Dodecatheon jeffreyi, the type of sect. Capitata H. J. Thompson) fall into the latter taxon. Even so, as noted in the key, both D. hendersonii and D. subalpinum occasionally have smooth connectives, and D. poeticum, a member of sect. Dodecatheon, has rugose connectives.

Recognition of Dodecatheon creates a paraphyletic Primula (M. Källersjö et al. 2000; A. R. Mast et al. 2001, 2004; L. Martins et al. 2003). Dodecatheon falls within Primula subg. Auriculastrum Schott (as sect. Dodecatheon) and is seemingly allied with the Sierra Nevada endemic P. suffrutescens A. Gray. The two share an involute leaf vernation. While Primula has a base number of x = 11, Dodecatheon has x = 22; H. J. Thompson (1953) has shown that 2n = 66 plants are triploids, not hexaploids. These observations have resulted in the transfer of all species of Dodecatheon to Primula (A. R. Mast and J. L. Reveal 2007). For those wishing to adopt this concept, the appropriate names are provided here in synonymy.

The morphological differentiation of the monophyletic Dodecatheon clade is the evolution of buzz-pollinated flowers (e.g., by bees, similar to that found in Solanum) coupled with a homostylous rather than the heterostylous floral condition typical of Primula (Mast et al. 2004). Coupled with this was fixation of recessive alleles at the heterostyly linkage group (pin phenotype) and at least six other traits that likely arose with the origin of Dodecatheon. One major change preceded its origin (flower coloration, a transfer exaptation in Dodecatheon), and another followed it (rugose anther connectives, an adaptation to buzz pollination). The first accounts for the shared floral colors among P. suffrutescens and Dodecatheon. The second, significantly, provides “footing” for the pollinator while buzzing the flower. In general, anthers with a rugose connective are larger than those with a smooth connective, and the anthers of Dodecatheon are considerably larger than those of Primula. Also related to these changes are the usually connate filaments forming a tube, thick connectives, and poricidal anthers (L. D. Harder and R. M. R. Barclay 1994).

Pollination studies in Dodecatheon are limited; only two species (D. amethystinum and D. meadia) have been examined in detail (L. W. Macior 1964, 1970b). According to H. J. Thompson (1953), flowers not visited by a pollinator can self-pollinate.

Use of the taxonomic rank of variety, rather than subspecies, was discussed by N. H. Holmgren (1994), and those concepts are followed herein.

Well-preserved flowers of Dodecatheon are critical for identification. The nature of the anther (especially whether the connective is smooth, longitudinally wrinkled, or transversely rugose) and the color patterns of the corolla are important observations that should be made in the field because the flowers often lose color when dried. Some species (D. hendersonii, D. poeticum, and D. subalpinum) are keyed twice, in part because the connective can easily be misinterpreted. In particular, one should check for bulblets (about the size of grains of rice) that are produced among the roots of some species at anthesis.

Vegetative plasticity in response to both moisture and time of season contributes to extremes in variation, especially height and robustness of plants, and length and breadth of leaves. Because some species of Dodecatheon tend to flower in moist soils of grassy meadows (or even in running water), but only in places that tend to dry out, the length of time a particular site is wet can be a significant factor in determining the overall size of the plant and leaves. Additionally, ecotypic variation has been documented (T. A. Suttill and G. A. Allen 1992). In some species, one can find an ecological gradient with some plants near a stream bank having longer, broader leaves than those on the drier slopes away from the stream. Because there is often a continuum, it is easy to notice in the field, if alert to variation within the population. In others that tend to be in moist places throughout most of their growing cycle, elevation is a factor that seemingly plays a role in the vegetative plasticity.

Adding to the complexity is the need to observe the valvate or operculate dehiscence of the capsule, and the degree of firmness of the capsule wall. Dehiscence of the capsule is clearly valvate in some species (e.g., Dodecatheon pulchellum) with no hint of a line of separation. In other species (e.g., D. jeffreyi), the capsule opens on a transverse line near the top of the fruit, shedding a cap (operculum) often with an intact style. There are specimens that have both valvate and operculate dehiscence even on the same plant (e.g., D. clevelandii). The distinction is further complicated by the “line of separation,” which is often distinguished by the distal portion of the capsule being a darker color and also, (in some) glandular. The operculum may consist of little more than the base of the style and may be well apical of the “line” that is indicative of the depth to which the capsule will split into five, ten, or more toothlike segments. With age, the (usually) inwardly curved teeth shed the operculum and then fall away resulting in what appears to be a toothless, circumscissile capsule. In contrast, valvate capsules develop teeth at the apex of the fruit, resulting (often) in a splitting of the style into parts. With age, the (usually) outwardly curved teeth shed the fragments of the style. The teeth usually remain attached to the body of valvate capsules; sometimes they are shed, resulting in what appears to be a toothless, circumscissile capsule.

Finally, be aware that occasionally two or more species may occur in proximity. Because the distinguishing features used here to recognize species can be difficult to observe without a critical examination of the flower, and in some cases the root system and capsules, a seemingly variable population may, in fact, be a mixture of plants of two different species with an occasional sterile hybrid added to the mix. This can result in herbarium collections composed of two species, adding even more difficulty to the identification of these plants.

Shootingstars are widely cultivated, and some cultivars have been selected. Essentially all species are found in nurseries. Most can be grown in sunny to lightly shaded places in dampish soil that slowly dries. Most flower during the spring months and are especially attractive when planted in masses. None of the species has much of a history of medicinal use by Native Americans. Flowers of some species were used decoratively, to attract men, and to aid youngsters to sleep. Roasted leaves and roots were eaten in California, and in the Pacific Northwest an infusion of roots was occasionally used as an eye wash, a treatment of cold sores, or an oral gargle (V. K. Chestnut 1902; J. Goodrich et al. 1980; J. C. Hellson 1974; E. V. Steedman 1930; N. J. Turner et al. 1980, 1990).

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

1. Leaf blades, scapes, and pedicels glabrous.
D. conjugens var. conjugens
1. Leaf blades, scapes proximally, and pedicels usually glandular-puberulent.
D. conjugens var. viscidum
1. Connective transversely rugose
→ 2
1. Connective usually smooth, sometimes longitudinally wrinkled
→ 10
2. Stigmas enlarged compared to styles; seeds with membrane along edges
→ 3
2. Stigmas not enlarged compared to styles; seeds without membrane along edges
→ 5
3. Petals 4; capsules valvate; leaf blades linear to linear-oblanceolate, surfaces glabrous; pedicels and bracts glabrous, sometimes sparsely glandular-puberulent.
D. alpinum
3. Petals 4-5; capsules operculate or valvate; leaf blades narrowly oblanceolate to oblanceolate or spatulate, surfaces glabrous or glandular-pubescent; pedicels and bracts usually distinctly glandular-pubescent
→ 4
4. Petals 5; capsules valvate; leaf blades, petioles, and bracts glandular-pubescent; anther tips acute; corolla tube usually covering base of anthers, yellow.
D. redolens
4. Petals 4-5; capsules usually operculate, sometimes valvate (often on same plant); leaf blades, petioles, and bracts glabrous or glandular-pubescent; anther tips truncate to obtuse; corolla tube not covering base of anthers, usually cream, rarely yellow.
D. jeffreyi
5. Plants usually producing bulblets among roots at anthesis
→ 6
5. Plants not producing bulblets among roots at anthesis
→ 7
6. Leaves somewhat decurrent; petioles slightly, if at all, winged; petals 4-5 (often on same plant); plants (7-)10-50(-55) cm; corolla lobes 6-25(-28) mm; below 2100 m.
D. hendersonii
6. Leaves usually slightly decurrent; petioles seldom winged; petals 5; plants 7- 15(-25) cm; corolla lobes 5-9(-12) mm; above 2100 m.
D. subalpinum
7. Filaments usually distinct, rarely partially connate; plants usually glabrous, if glandular-puberulent, then of sw Alberta, se British Columbia, Saskatchewan, n Idaho, w Montana, and e Washington.
D. conjugens
7. Filaments connate; plants usually glabrous, if glandular-puberulent, then of nc Oregon and sc Washington
→ 8
8. Leaf blades gradually tapering to petiole; plants glandular-puberulent throughout; nc Oregon, sc Washington.
D. poeticum
8. Leaf blades narrowing abruptly to petiole; plants not glandular-puberulent throughout; California
→ 9
9. Pedicels glandular or glabrous; calyces glabrous or glandular- puberulent.
D. hendersonii
9. Pedicels glandular-puberulent, calyces glandular-puberulent.
D. clevelandii
10. Caudices often horizontal, often woody; roots reddish; inland arctic or subarctic regions.
D. frigidum
10. Caudices usually vertical to slightly horizontal, not woody, sometimes absent; roots usually whitish, sometimes reddish, tan, or brownish; not of inland arctic or subarctic regions
→ 11
11. Plants usually producing bulblets among roots at anthesis
→ 12
11. Plants usually not producing bulblets among roots at anthesis
→ 13
12. Leaves somewhat decurrent; petioles slightly, if at all, winged; petals 4-5 (often on same plant); plants (7-)10-50(-55) cm; corolla lobes 6-25(-28) mm; below 2100 m.
D. hendersonii
12. Leaves slightly decurrent; petioles usually not winged; petals 5; plants 7-15 (-25) cm; corolla lobes 5-9(-12) mm; above 2100 m.
D. subalpinum
13. Capsule walls relatively thick, rigid
→ 14
13. Capsule walls relatively thin, pliable
→ 16
14. Filament tubes deep purple; Pacific Northwest.
D. poeticum
14. Filament tubes yellow; e United States
→ 15
15. Leaf blade bases abruptly tapering to petioles.
D. frenchii
15. Leaf blade bases gradually tapering to petioles.
D. meadia
16. Leaf blade bases abruptly tapering to petioles; corolla lobes usually white, rarely pale lavender to pink; w North America
→ 17
16. Leaf blade bases gradually tapering to petioles; corolla lobes usually magenta to lavender or, if white, then plants of e North America
→ 19
17. Filaments and basal portions of connectives yellow; corollas usually white, rarely lavender; Arizona, New Mexico.
D. ellisiae
17. Filaments and connectives dark maroon to black, sometimes filaments merely maroon speckled or striped; corollas white or pale lavender to pink
→ 18
18. Corolla lobes white; Pacific Northwest.
D. dentatum
18. Corolla lobes pale lavender to pink; Utah.
D. utahense
19. Filaments distinct; coastal mountains, nw Oregon, sw Washington.
D. austrofrigidum
19. Filaments connate; widespread
→ 20
20. Pollen sacs usually reddish, sometimes maroon; midwestern and mid-Atlantic North America.
D. amethystinum
20. Pollen sacs maroon to black or yellow; w North America
→ 21
21. Filament tubes usually yellow, if purplish, then connectives smooth or longitudinally wrinkled at anthesis and scapes glabrous
D. pulchellum
21. Filament tubes deep purple, connectives transversely rugose, if (rarely) smooth and appearing transversely wrinkled, then scape glandular.
D. poeticum
Source FNA vol. 8, p. 271. FNA vol. 8, p. 268.
Parent taxa Primulaceae > Dodecatheon Primulaceae
Sibling taxa
D. alpinum, D. amethystinum, D. austrofrigidum, D. clevelandii, D. dentatum, D. ellisiae, D. frenchii, D. frigidum, D. hendersonii, D. jeffreyi, D. meadia, D. poeticum, D. pulchellum, D. redolens, D. subalpinum, D. utahense
Subordinate taxa
D. conjugens var. conjugens, D. conjugens var. viscidum
D. alpinum, D. amethystinum, D. austrofrigidum, D. clevelandii, D. conjugens, D. dentatum, D. ellisiae, D. frenchii, D. frigidum, D. hendersonii, D. jeffreyi, D. meadia, D. poeticum, D. pulchellum, D. redolens, D. subalpinum, D. utahense
Synonyms Primula conjugens
Name authority Greene: Erythea 3: 40. (1895) Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 1: 144. (1753): Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 71. 1754 ,
Web links 
see all taxa on an iNaturalist map