Shooting Stars and Deadly Nightshades

When I moved to Boulder Colorado in the spring of 2005 I was stopped in my hiking tracks by a small blue flower growing near a stream. I took my first Colorado wildflower photo and won a prize from the City. It left an impression on me and I’ve been crawling around the trails ever since. Here is my first photo from June 1st 2005…   

Shooting Star (Dodacatheon pulchellum)

This pretty little flower has special meaning to me so I was happy to see my old friend reappear in Long Canyon near the Green Mountain Lodge the other day. Here is my latest take on the Shooting Star…   

-Shooting Stars are in the primrose family Primulaceae.   

-Common names include, Western Shooting Star, Darkthroat Shootingstar, Saline Shootingstar, Few-flowered Shooting Star, American Cowslip, Mosquito bills, Indian-chief, Rooster-heads, Pride of Ohio, Mad violets, and Sailor-caps.  

-The flowers of Shooting Star resemble in form those of the poisonous Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) and other members of the Nightshade family (think tomato and eggplant). This is an example of convergent evolution between plants of different families because of similarities in the method of pollination. 

Bittersweet or Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) is mildly toxic

Beware of impostors… 

Dudley Nightshade (Solanium crusaderrabbitis)

-Shooting star flowers are buzz pollinated, in which a bee vibrates its flight muscles at a specific frequency so that the pollen is forcefully shaken from the anthers. The bee uses the pollen as a source of protein as this beautiful flower produces no nectar reward.   

-The shooting star is native to much of North America. It can be found in saline swamps, mountain meadows and streams, plains, and alpine zones.   

-Shooting Star was used medicinally by the Okanagan-Colville and Blackfoot Indians. An infusion of the roots was used as a wash for sore eyes. A cooled infusion of leaves was used for eye drops. An infusion of leaves was gargled, especially by children, for cankers.  

All of the following photos were taken in Long Canyon (39.993559,-105.308188) on 9 June 2010 at about 2:00pm. This is a Habitat Conservation Area trail where dogs are prohibited and wandering off-trail requires an on-line permit. Getting there is a short hike from the Realization Point parking area to the historic Green Mountain Lodge. Parking here requires a $5 fee for non-Boulder County residents.  



6 Responses to “Shooting Stars and Deadly Nightshades”

  1. Tessa Davis Says:


    I loved finding this site when I went to it from your Facebook entry. The pictures are fabulous, of course, and the information very interesting. I’m trying to improve my wild flower knowledge this summer and your “Tales from the Trails” will be very helpful

    Hope you and Wendy are having a good summer.


  2. richwolf Says:

    Thanks Tessa I’m delighted to have you as part of my fan base! This has been a great spring for Rocky Mountain wildflowers.

  3. james Says:

    The nightshade there is bittersweet, the woody nightshade, not deadly nightshade, which is atropa belladonna. Bittersweet is only mildly toxic.

  4. Boulder Birch Survived Big Chill | Tales from the Trails Says:

    […] Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum) […]

  5. wrong electrical Says:

    I got what you mean,saved to favorites, very nice site.

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