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

darkthroat shooting star, few-flower shootingstar

Dodecatheon hendersonii

broad-leaf shooting star, Henderson's shooting star, mosquito bills, mosquito-bill

Habit Plants (2–)10–45(–60) cm; scape usually glabrous, sometimes glandular-pubescent or -puberulent. Plants (7–)10–50(–55) cm; scape glandular (at least distally) or glabrous.

not obvious at anthesis;

roots white;

bulblets absent.

not obvious at anthesis;

roots usually whitish;

bulblets present or absent.


(2–)4–25(–48) × 0.3–6(–8.5) cm;

petiole ± winged, sometimes wingless near base;

blade oblanceolate to spatulate or ovate to nearly oval, base decurrent onto stem, usually gradually tapering to petiole, margins usually entire, rarely slightly toothed, sometimes undulate, surfaces glabrous or glandular-pubescent.

0.5–14(–16) × (1–)1.5–6(–7) cm;

petiole slightly, if at all, winged;

blade usually oblanceolate to elliptic or spatulate, sometimes ovate to nearly rounded, base somewhat decurrent into stem, abruptly tapering to petiole, margins entire, surfaces glabrous.



bracts lanceolate, 2–15 mm, glabrous or glandular-pubescent or -puberulent.


bracts narrowly to broadly lanceolate, 3–10(–15) mm, usually glabrous, sometimes glandular.


(0.7–)1–5(–7) cm, glabrous or glandular-pubescent or -puberulent.

2–7 cm, glandular or glabrous.


calyx green, usually purple-flecked, 4–8 mm, glabrous or glandular-pubescent or -puberulent, tube 1.5–4 mm, lobes 5, 1–6 mm;

corolla tube maroon or yellow (fading to white) with reddish to magenta, thin, wavy ring, ring rarely absent, lobes 5, usually magenta to lavender, rarely white, (5–)7–20 mm;

filaments connate, tube yellow or maroon to dark purple or black, 0.7–3.6 × 1–3 mm;

anthers 3–8.5 mm;

pollen sacs dark maroon to black (at least apically) or yellow (at least apically), usually with some pink, reddish, or maroon speckles or lines dorsally, connective maroon to black or yellow, smooth or longitudinally wrinkled;

stigma not enlarged compared to style.

calyx green or greenish with reddish or purple speckles, 5–10 mm, glandular-puberulent or glabrous, tube 1.5–3 mm, lobes 4–5, 3–8 mm;

corolla tube yellow or whitish with reddish to reddish purple, thick, wavy ring, lobes 4–5 (often on same plant), usually magenta to lavender, sometimes white, 6–25(–28) mm;

filaments connate, tube dark maroon, 1–3.5 × 1–4 mm;

anthers 2.5–6 mm;

pollen sacs usually deep red to purple or maroon, sometimes yellow and often speckled with red or maroon, connective dark maroon to black, transversely rugose (infrequently seemingly longitudinally wrinkled);

stigma not enlarged compared to style.


tan to light brown, often reddish brown apically, sometimes speckled with red or maroon, valvate, cylindric-ovoid, 5–14(–20) × 3–5(–7) mm, glabrous or glandular-pubescent;

walls thin, pliable.

green or greenish, sometimes speckled purple or reddish, operculate or valvate, cylindric-ovoid, 7–17(–19) × 4–7(–9) mm, glabrous or glandular-puberulent;

walls thin, pliable.


without membrane along edges.

without membrane along edges.


= 44, 66, 88, 132.

Dodecatheon pulchellum

Dodecatheon hendersonii

Phenology Flowering winter–early summer.
Habitat Grasslands or meadow communities, or oak and conifer woodlands, often in shady places
Elevation 0-1900(-2100) m (0-6200(-6900) ft)
from FNA
AK; AZ; CA; CO; ID; MT; ND; NE; NM; NV; OR; SD; UT; WA; WY; AB; BC; MB; NT; SK; YT; nw Mexico
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from FNA
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]

Varieties 7 (7 in the flora).

The variation within Dodecatheon pulchellum is substantial and, for the most part, each of the entities recognized here seems distinct although nearly all break down in one or more features; most seem to have intergraded with other entities in the past. Variety pulchellum is the most widespread and remains, even as treated here, quite variable. The depauperate, often uniflorous, high-elevation form, var. watsonii, is included in var. pulchellum; there is no difference except in overall size even on the East Humboldt and Ruby mountains of northeastern Nevada, the type location of var. watsonii. Widely disjunct populations assigned to var. monanthum remain problematic. The plants of northwestern California and southwestern Oregon differ only slightly from those found elsewhere in Oregon, including the Blue Mountains, where the type of var. monanthum was obtained. The southern Utah expression, while similar morphologically, displays a biogeographic pattern that is unique. A better understanding of the variation between the western and eastern phases of var. monanthum is needed.

The coastal var. macrocarpum has consistent morphological differences and a higher ploidy level (2n = 88, 132) compared with the more inland var. pulchellum (2n = 44). Whether or not the ploidy level difference is consistent remains to be shown.

The arid forms of Dodecatheon pulchellum exhibit remarkable morphological differences that require recognition (J. L. Reveal 2005). Hanging garden plants in Utah are recognized as var. zionense, following N. H. Holmgren (2005). Some populations assigned to this variety may ultimately prove to be merely large-leaved plants of either var. pulchellum or the Utah phase of var. monanthum. Zion shootingstar may owe both its large leaves and its glandular-puberulent pedicels and calyces to hybridization with D. redolens sometime in its evolutionary past, even though the latter taxon is no longer close geographically. Variety shoshonense, usually growing in moist, alkaline meadows, is found mainly in the northern Mojave Desert and the Intermountain West. The color pattern associated with the stamens differs from most other varieties of the species, suggesting a fundamental change associated with pollination and likely a closer relationship to var. cusickii (which also has yellow pollen sacs) than to var. pulchellum.

This taxon inadvertently was named Dodecatheon puberulum (Nuttall) Nuttall three years before the establishment of Exinia pulchella. To avoid nomenclatural disruptions, the basionym D. meadia var. puberulum Nuttall has been proposed for rejection (J. L. Reveal and K. N. Gandhi 2008).

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

Dodecatheon hendersonii occurs from southern Vancouver Island in the coastal ranges to west-central California (as far as San Benito County) and is disjunct into the San Bernardino Mountains in southern California. To the east, the species is found on the Siskiyou Mountains and in the Sierra Nevada of California to Tulare County. A Macoun (s.n., DAO) specimen supposedly gathered at Yale, British Columbia, may be misattributed (K. I. Beamish 1955); all other known localities are from Vancouver Island.

Inasmuch as bulblets and mature capsules are rarely collected, it is difficult to clearly distinguish between var. hendersonii and var. hansenii. The former may be broadly characterized as plants bearing bulblets at anthesis with sparsely glandular scapes, pedicels, and, sometimes, calyces. The calyx of var. hendersonii is usually greenish with purple or reddish speckles. The most distinctive characteristics of this phase are a filament tube that is 1–2.5 mm wide and acute anther apices. It is found mainly along the coast from British Columbia to southern Oregon and in scattered locations in coastal California, with disjunct populations in the foothills of the central Sierra Nevada, and in the mountains of southern California. Variety hansenii is glabrous, lacks bulblets, and the calyx typically is green; it usually is found inland in the Siskiyou Mountains and the Sierra Nevada and scattered populations occur in the coastal ranges of northern California. The filaments in var. hansenii are broader, being tubes 1.5–4 mm wide, and anther apices are obtuse. Capsules of var. hendersonii are usually operculate; those of var. hansenii appear to be consistently valvate. The 2n = 66 plants appear to be primarily individuals that produce little or no pollen.

Adding to the complexity is the close association of var. hansenii with Dodecatheon clevelandii var. patulum. The latter, like var. hendersonii, is basically a diploid or a tetraploid (2n = 44, 88), rather than a hexaploid, and one would expect no crossing between the two. Nonetheless, H. J. Thompson (1953) reported finding sterile individuals where D. hendersonii var. hansenii and D. clevelandii var. patulum were in close association. These sterile individuals were morphologically similar to var. hansenii (and not intermediate between the two), and sterile individuals were fairly common in populations of var. hansenii where no other Dodecatheon were present. Although the three entities may be characterized (see table 5 in Thompson), Thompson concluded that assigning names to some populations was difficult and could be established “only by a detailed consideration and summation of all the characters.”

H. J. Thompson (1953) recognized Dodecatheon hansenii; A. F. Cholewa and D. M. Henderson (1993) accepted only D. hendersonii. In their molecular study, A. R. Mast et al. (2004) considered the two entities distinct, albeit closely related, species. It is possible that var. hansenii had a hybrid origin involving var. hendersonii and D. clevelandii var. patulum, and backcrossing with var. hendersonii resulting in a series of morphological features that allies the hansenii phase more to D. hendersonii than to D. clevelandii. More study is needed, especially in areas where the two appear to have overlapping ranges in the Bay Area and Sierra Nevada foothills of California.

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

1. Pollen sacs usually maroon to black, if yellow, plants of the Great Plains in Canada or in the Colorado River basin with relatively large leaves and minutely glandular pedicels and calyces
→ 2
1. Pollen sacs usually yellow, at least apically; usually not of the Great Plains in Canada or if in the Colorado River basin then pedicels and calyces not minutely glandular
→ 4
2. Filament tubes usually maroon to black, sometimes yellow basally.
var. monanthum
2. Filament tubes yellow, sometimes yellow basally and maroon distally
→ 3
3. Leaves (3-)4-17(-25) × 0.5-2.5(-4.5) cm; pedicels and calyces usually glabrous; common.
var. pulchellum
3. Leaves (8-)10-48 × 1.5-8.5 cm; pedicels and calyces minutely glandular; rare.
var. zionense
4. Plants glabrous
→ 5
4. Plants glandular, glandular-puberulent, or glandular-pubescent
→ 6
5. Anthers (4.5-)5-8.5 mm; leaves (3-)5-20(-35) × (0.5-)1.5-5 cm, blade elliptic or narrowly ovate to ovate; corolla tubes yellow; pollen sacs with pink to maroon speckles or lines abaxially; coastal or inland coastal montane regions and adjacent eastern valleys.
var. macrocarpum
5. Anthers 3.5-5 mm; leaves 4-15(-22) × 0.5-3.5 cm, blade oblanceolate to elliptic or spatulate; corolla tubes yellow or white; pollen sacs yellow (not speckled or lined); moist, inland, alkaline meadows.
var. shoshonense
6. Plants sparsely glandular-puberulent; pedicels and calyces usually glandular, sometimes sparsely glandular-puberulent; wc South Dakota and ne Wyoming.
var. distolum
6. Plants densely glandular-pubescent or -puberulent; pedicels and calyces usually densely glandular, sometimes glandular-puberulent; s British Columbia s to Oregon, e to w Montana and nw Wyoming
var. cusickii
Source FNA vol. 8, p. 279. FNA vol. 8, p. 273.
Parent taxa Primulaceae > Dodecatheon Primulaceae > Dodecatheon
Sibling taxa
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. redolens, D. subalpinum, D. utahense
D. alpinum, D. amethystinum, D. austrofrigidum, D. clevelandii, D. conjugens, D. dentatum, D. ellisiae, D. frenchii, D. frigidum, D. jeffreyi, D. meadia, D. poeticum, D. pulchellum, D. redolens, D. subalpinum, D. utahense
Subordinate taxa
D. pulchellum var. cusickii, D. pulchellum var. distolum, D. pulchellum var. macrocarpum, D. pulchellum var. monanthum, D. pulchellum var. pulchellum, D. pulchellum var. shoshonense, D. pulchellum var. zionense
Synonyms Exinia pulchella D. hansenii, D. hendersonii subsp. cruciatum, D. hendersonii var. hansenii, D. hendersonii subsp. parvifolium, Primula hendersonii
Name authority (Rafinesque) Merrill: J. Arnold Arbor. 29: 212. (1948) A. Gray: Bot. Gaz. 11: 233. 1886 (as hendersoni) ,
Web links