Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A shooting star ballet next to Gabilan Trail in Garland Park

Shooting stars seen next to Gabilan Trail In Garland Park, California
A cluster of shooting star flower heads

Shooting stars (Dodecatheon spp.) of the Primulaceae family are among the first flowers to appear on montane meadows and forest opening as the snow melts or some rain water trickles through. Species such as the Sierra shooting star (D. jeffreyi), alpinum shooting star (D. alpinum) and Padre's shooting star (D. clevelandii) are native to California. For the latter, which is also called the Lowland Shooting Star, the flower season is winter and early spring. This year, in Garland Ranch Regional Park east of Carmel, Padre's shooting stars were already in bloom in January. The shown flowers were found on January 25, 2015, next to Gabilan Trail—on a small meadow about half-way between Gabilan Trail's junction with Spring Trail (upper end) and with Saddle Trail (lower end).

Open and closed shooting star flower heads
The five-fold symmetry of the flower heads is not always immediately recognized since the petals often take on curly or helical forms. The petals have a purple base. Above the base appears a yellow band. The petal color above the yellow area towards the petal tip is sometimes white, but often changes from white to pink. The open flower heads typically nod—base sidewise or completely down—such that the soft, streamlining petals give the appearance of the trailing tail of a shooting star. The calyx is light-green colored.

At the Garland Park's visitor center, we found a shooting star specimen at display with the following introduction:

Padre's Shooting Star
(Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. sanctarum)
A native of Western California, this striking flower is one of the first to appear in Spring. It derives its name from the backward-facing position of the petals, giving it the appearance of a shooting star. Its common name of is “Padre's”comes from its subspecies name of  “sanctarum”, meaning holy in Latin.

I guess, January is a spring month in California. January 25 of this year, indeed, was a day with spring-like weather, on which shooting stars were shining at their selected spots in Garland Ranch Regional Park.

Keywords: Carmel Valley, botany, flowering plants, Dodecatheon (doh-dek-ATH-ee-on), shooting stars, mad violets, sailor caps.

References and more to explore
[1] The American Southwest: Dodecatheon Clevelandii, Padre's Shooting Star [www.americansouthwest.net/plants/wildflowers/dodecatheon-clevelandii.html].
[2] Calflora Taxon Report 2753: Dodecatheon clevelandii [www.calflora.org/cgi-bin/species_query.cgi?where-taxon=Dodecatheon+clevelandii].
[3] Calflora: http://www.calflora.net/bloomingplants/shootingstar.html.
[4] Native Plants: Padre's Shooting Star [nativeplants.csuci.edu/dodecatheon-clevelandii.htm].
[5] Natural History of Orange County, California: Padre's Shooting Star [nathistoc.bio.uci.edu/plants/Primulaceae/Dodecatheon%20clevelandii.htm].

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