Northwest Wildflowers

Which prairie star?

In the Columbia River Gorge (and many other places in the Pacific Northwest), most of the prairie/woodland stars you'll find are one of two species: Lithophragma glabrum and Lithophragma parviflorum.

Both can range from white to hot pink, both are somewhat hairy, and none of the common names (e.g. "smooth" vs. "small-flowered") are helpful at all. There are some subtle differences in the shapes of the petals, but the easiest way to tell them apart is by looking at the flower from the side.

Lithophragma glabrum

  • starts blooming in February
  • calyx narrows abruptly
  • sometimes has bulblets at the joints on the stem

Lithophragma parviflorum

  • starts blooming in March
  • calyx tapers gradually
  • no bulblets/bulbils

(For the record, Lithophragma tenellum also grows in the eastern Gorge, but it is much less common; it's similar to L. glabrum, but usually has an extra pair of lobes at the base of the petals. See Paul Slichter's site for photos.)

Compare L. glabrum, L. parviflorum, & L. tenellum.

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