Star Flower

Lysimachia borealis formerly Trientalis borealis Myrsinaceae or Marlberry Family. Formerly in the Primrose Family

When spring comes, I search for this graceful plant on the forest floor. The earlier name (Trientalis) “triens” means 1/3 of a foot in Latin and describes its low herbaceous (non-woody) habit. Borealis indicates a Northern plant. It’s new genus name, Lysimachia, just refers to its relatives. If I were to name this plant, I would use elegant as the species descriptor. Maybe Trientalis elegans.

Roots, rhizomes. I often find colonies, so I assume most plants start from rhizomes or underground stems held in place by their roots that absorb water and nutrients.

Leaves: this plant is unusual for me because the leaves radiate out but each single leaf is not the same length. In the fall the leaves are still different lengths. I thought they might have started at different times and would end up the same length. I love that they don’t. There is even a tiny one that curls under the flower at an odd angle (left).

The leaves have pinnate veins arranged like a feather with secondary veins coming out of the midvein. Another detail I noticed when I drew it: the side veins arch over to the next vein along the margin: anamatosis.

Sepals and Petals. Each individual flower usually has 7 sepals, 7 petals. The sepals are placed in between the petals instead of behind a petal.

Starflower and bud

In the photo below (left) there are only 6 petals. Note the word “usually” above. I relish the variable number of petals, refusing to fit into our human definitions. It must be so hard to draw or photograph one perfect picture and write one definitive description for the id books. And plants evolve and change. Hard for the taxonomists but interesting for us observers.

Six petals

Stamens and Pistil. Below: Stamens with filaments and yellow anthers surround a round green ovary with a long style with a tiny stigma on top. Seven stamens arranged with each stamen in the center of a petal. Of course, there is a term for this: antepetalous. They could be in front of the sepals: antesepalous. After the anthers ripen and release pollen they curl down (right).

Fruit. A capsule splits along seams to disperse seeds and looks like a squished volleyball.

Two more shots of this radiating pattern as it decomposes and get eaten.

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