Amsonia illustris Woodson

Shining Blue Star


CC = 7
CW = 0
MOC = 35

© SRTurner

Family - Apocynaceae

Habit - Perennial forb, sometimes woody near base.

Stems - Ascending to erect, to 1 m, usually multiple from base, sometimes branching near tips, with milky sap, glabrous.

Amsonia_illustris_stem.jpg Stem and nodes.

© DETenaglia

Amsonia_illustris_sap.jpg Sap of stem.

© DETenaglia

Leaves - Alternate, short-petiolate (becoming sessile near base of plant), simple, entire. Petioles to 1 cm long. Blades lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, sharply pointed, 12 cm long, 3 cm broad, shiny green and glabrous on upper surface, pale green and glabrous or sparsely hairy underneath.

Amsonia_illustris_leaves2.jpg Leaves.

© SRTurner

Amsonia_illustris_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Amsonia_illustris_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Amsonia_illustris_leaves.jpg Pressed leaves.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Terminal clusters, roughly cylindrical to hemispherical, 4-6 cm long at flowering, positioned above the leaves. Flower stalks 8-10 mm long, often tinged with blue.

Amsonia_illustris_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Calyces 5-lobed, sparsely hairy, the lobes 1.0-1.2 mm long, triangular. Corollas 5-lobed, densely hairy internally, glabrous externally, the tube 6-7 mm long, about 1 mm wide at base, the throat 2.0-2.4 mm wide, the lobes 5-8 mm long, 1.5-2.5 mm wide, narrowly oblong to linear-lanceolate, light blue. Stamens 5, alternating with corolla lobes, adnate to corolla tube near apex. Anthers yellow-orange, 1 mm long. Style glabrous, 5 mm long. Stigma capitate, winged at base. Carpels 2.

Amsonia_illustris_calyx.jpg Calyx and corolla tube.

© DETenaglia

Amsonia_illustris_flower.jpg Corolla.

© DETenaglia

Amsonia_illustris_flowers.jpg Corollas.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Slender follicles to 12 cm long, terete, many seeded, glabrous, drooping at maturity, positioned among the leaves, slightly constricted between the seeds and sometimes breaking between them. Seeds 6-9 mm long, 2-3 mm wide, the surface usually with low, corky ridges and tubercles, dark brown.

Amsonia_illustris_fruits.jpg Fruits.

© SRTurner

Flowering - April - May.

Habitat - Rocky ground along bluffs and streambanks, gravel bars, occasionally glades.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - A. tabernaemontana.

Other info. - This plant is quite striking when in flower and is gaining popularity as a cultivated ornamental. The shiny green leaves and dense flower clusters are very attractive, and the slender pods add interest in the autumn. In Missouri it is generally found south of the Missouri River and in the western 2/3 of the state. Another species, A. tabernaemontana Walt., looks similar but has duller leaves which are also slightly broader, glabrous calyces, and fruits borne erect. A. illustris has been viewed as a variety of A. tabernaemontana, though the characters listed above and the habitat preferences seem to be consistent differences.

Photographs taken at Schumaker Park, Jackson County, MO., 5-12-00, and in Ripley County, MO., 5-15-04 (DETenaglia); also at Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 4-29-2007, 5-23-2008, 8-12-2020, and 5-3-2021; and on gravel bars in the Meramec River, Crawford and St. Louis Counties, 4-18-2012 and 5-4-2012 (SRTurner).