Primula meadia (L.) A.R. Mast & Reveal

Common Shooting Star


CC = 7
CW = 3
MOC = 68

© DETenaglia

Family - Primulaceae

Habit - Rhizomatous perennial forb.

Stems - Aerial stems absent.

Leaves - All basal, 8-26 cm long, the blades oblanceolate or elliptic-oblanceolate, gradually tapered at the base, lacking a distinct petiole, rounded or broadly angled to a blunt point at the tip, the margins entire to inconspicuously scalloped, sometimes slightly wavy, the surfaces glabrous, sometimes with reddish coloration toward the base, especially along the midvein.

Primula_meadia_basals.jpg Basal rosettes.

© SRTurner

Primula_meadia_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Primula_meadia_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Inflorescence - Umbels with 5-20 flowers, the involucral bracts 2-5 mm long, lanceolate, the flower stalks 3-8 cm long, arching in flower, glabrous. Scape to 50 cm, 3 mm in diameter, glabrous. Umbellate cluster terminating scape, with +/-10 flowers.

Primula_meadia_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Primula_meadia_involucre.jpg Involucre.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Calyces 5-9 mm long, deeply lobed. Corollas with the tube 2-4 mm long, purple at the throat, the 5 lobes 13-18 mm long, 3-4 mm wide, strongly reflexed, white to pink or lavender, usually yellow at the base, glabrous. Stamens 5, exserted, the filaments free or fused into a membranous tube, the anthers 6-9 mm long, fused into a tube around the style, the bases of their connectives expanded and purple. Ovary green, glabrous, cylindric, to 4 mm long, 2 mm in diameter, with numerous ovules. Placentation free-central. Style 7-10 mm long, slender, the stigma minute, capitate.

Primula_meadia_calyx.jpg Calyces (view from above).

© SRTurner

Primula_meadia_flower2.jpg Flower.

© SRTurner

Primula_meadia_white_flower.jpg White flower.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Ovoid capsules 8-14 mm long, 3-5 mm wide, thick-and hardwalled, dark brown. Seeds 0.6-0.8 mm long, more or less cuboid, angular, brown.

Primula_meadia_fruit.jpg Developing fruit.

© DETenaglia

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Upland forests, prairies, glades, savannas, ledges and tops of bluffs, pastures, fields, roadsides, rock outcrops.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Other species of Primula.

Other info. - This striking plant is found throughout most of Missouri except the northwestern corner. Within the continental U.S. its range is largely contained within the Midwest. It is easily recognized by the oddly shaped flowers, though this feature is also shared by the (much rarer) P. frenchii and P. fassettii. The flowers can range from purplish to white but are most commonly pink or pale purple.

A synonym previously in common use was Dodecatheon meadia. The species has been subdivided into varieties; however, these have overlapping ranges, occupy the same habitats, and intergrade freely, and the overlap in morphological characters makes assignment of infraspecific designations impractical for most Missouri specimens.

The plants are sometimes used in wildflower and rock gardens. Remarkably imaginative descriptions were presented by Steyermark, who noted that the flowers have an aroma reminiscent of grape juice, and the rootstock like that of canned corned beef.

Photographs taken in Ripley County, MO., 5-15-04 (DETenaglia); also at Valley View Glades Natural Area, 4-28-2010 and 5-8-2017, and Young Conservation Area, Jefferson County, MO, 5-2-2013 (SRTurner).