PRIMROSE FAMILY - Primulaceae: Shooting Star; American Cowslip; Pride of Ohio
Flowers--Purplish pink or yellowish white, the cone tipped with yellow; few or numerous, hanging on slender, recurved pedicels in an umbel at top of a simple scape 6 in. to 2 ft. high. Calyx deeply 5-parted; corolla of 5 narrow lobes bent backward and upward; the tube very short, thickened at throat, and marked with dark reddish purple dots; 5 stamens united into a protruding cone; 1 pistil, protruding beyond them. Leaves: Oblong or spatulate, 3 to 12 in. long, narrowed into petioles, all from fibrous roots. Fruit: A 5-valved capsule on erect pedicels.
Preferred Habitat--Prairies, open woods, moist cliffs.
Distribution--Pennsylvania southward and westward, and from Texas to Manitoba.
Ages ago Theophrastus called an entirely different plant by this same scientific name, derived from dodeka = twelve, and theos = gods; and although our plant is native of a land unknown to the ancients, the fanciful Linnaeus imagined he saw in the flowers of its umbel a little congress of their divinities seated around a miniature Olympus! Who has said science kills imagination? These handsome, interesting flowers, so familiar in the Middle West and Southwest, especially, somewhat resemble the cyclamen in oddity of form. Indeed, these prairie wild flowers are not unknown in florists' shops in Eastern cities.
Few bee workers are abroad at the shooting star's season. The female bumblebees, which, by striking the protruding stigma before they jar out any pollen, cross-fertilize it, are the flower's chief benefactors, but one often sees the little yellow puddle butterfly about it. Very different from the bright yellow cowslip of Europe is our odd, misnamed blossom.