This perennial wildflower develops an erect stem about 2-8" tall that
has a whorl of 5-9 leaves at its apex. The stem is light green
(sometimes tinted yellow or red), terete, glabrous, and relatively
slender. The stems are either naked, or they have a few scale-like
leaves that are inconspicuous. The larger whorled leaves at the apex
are 1-4" long and ¼-1½" across; they are more or less medium green,
lanceolate-elliptic to oblong-elliptic in shape, relatively smooth
along their margins, and glabrous. These latter leaves taper gradually
to acute tips, while their bases are narrowly wedge-shaped; they are
either short-petioled or sessile. In each whorl, these leaves can vary
significantly in size. Leaf venation is pinnate.
From the center of the whorled leaves, there
develops 1-3 flowers on erect or ascending pedicels. The pedicels are
¾-2½" long, terete, light green (sometimes tinted yellow or red),
glabrous, and slender. Each flower is about ½-¾" across, typically
7 white spreading petals, 7 light green sepals, 7 stamens with pale
yellow anthers, and a light green ovary with a single white style.
However, a flower can have as few as 5 petals, sepals, and stamens, or
as many as 9. The
petals are lanceolate-elliptic in shape, while the sepals are
linear-lanceolate and glabrous. The petals are longer than the sepals.
The blooming period is mid-spring to early summer (in Illinois
& neighboring areas), lasting about 2-4 weeks. Afterwards, the
are replaced by ovoid seed capsules that are 5-celled; they are shorter
than the sepals. These capsules eventually split open to release their
seeds. The root system is rhizomatous and fibrous; the rhizomes are
slender and long.
The preference is light shade or dappled sunlight, moist
conditions, an acidic soil containing peat and/or sand,
and cool summer temperatures.
Range & Habitat:
native Starflower is rare in Illinois and state-listed as 'threatened.'
It is restricted to the northern section of the state (see Distribution
). Illinois lies
along the southern range-limit of this species. Habitats include
tamarack bogs, birch bogs, hummocks in sandy swamps, edges of sandy
woodlands along swamps, and ravines leading out of bluffs.
This wildflower is found in high-quality natural areas where either
coniferous or deciduous trees are present.
Records of floral-faunal relationships for
) are sparse. The flowers attract
Halictid bees, Andrenid bees (Andrena
), and Syrphid flies. All of
these insects either collect or feed on pollen, as the flowers do not
produce nectar. The
Eastern Chipmunk sometimes eats the seeds/capsules of this wildflower.
It is possible that other small rodents do this as well.
A moist woodland along the
edge of a sandy swamp in NW Indiana.
This delicate wildflower is unusual because it typically has 7-petaled
flowers. The flowers of Starflower superficially resemble those of one
of the showier chickweeds
(e.g., Stellaria pubera
except their petals are usually more numerous and they are
located above a conspicuous whorl of leaves. Two other species in the
Trientalis genus have been described, but they don't occur in Illinois.
One species from the Pacific northwest of North America, Trientalis latifolia
has pinkish flowers rather than white, while a European species, Trientalis europaea
has pedicels that are usually longer than the leaves. A more specific
common name of Trientalis
is Northern Starflower.