Starflower is the name given to several star-shaped flowers belonging to different plant families. The most common of the star flowers is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows in forests, woodlands, and wetlands. Known as the North American star flower, these tiny delicate white flowers grow in the wild and can thrive in a variety of soil conditions.
The official name of the star flower is Trientalis borealis. It belongs to the Primulaceae or primrose family. The name of the genus Trientalis comes from the Latin word that means “one-third of a foot”. This is a reference to the height of the plant. Star flower plants grow to an average height of about four inches from the ground. The species name borealis translates to “the north”. This is despite the fact that the star flower actually grows in the Mid-Western United States and the higher level altitudes of the southern Appalachian Mountains.
The star flower was first observed and recorded by Constantinople Samuel Rafinesque. Rafinesque was a late 18th-century naturalist born in Constantinople who eventually moved to and settled in the United States.
Recent research on the star flower plant’s molecular and morphological data has called for its reclassification and merger with another genus of plants – Lysimachia. The Lysimachia genus is a member of the Myrsinaceae or Myrsine plant family.
The star flower is also commonly known as Star of Bethlehem, Northern Starflower, American Starflower, and Mayflower. Two other species of the star flower also exist. These are the Trientalis europaea and Trientalis latiflolia.
Apart from these, the bright blue flowers of the Borage plant are also commonly known as starflowers. Not to be confused with the pristine white Northern Star Flower, Borage flowers are bright blue in color and have several culinary and medicinal uses.
Growth and Care
Star flowers are adaptive, resilient, and hardy plants. They grow between 2-8 inches off the ground on a long slender stalk. The star flower is a single-storied plant with a single whorl of 5-9 lance-shaped leaves growing at the end of the stalk. The star flowers are white in color with 5-9 stamens and bright yellow anthers at the end. They are about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch wide. The flowers bloom from mid to late spring and early summer in the months of May and June. The flowers can blossom as a single bloom or 2-3 blooms together. The plant spreads through slender creeping rhizomes underground and goes dormant in mid-summer.
Once dormant, the leaves become yellow and fall to the ground leaving 1-2 seed pods at the end of the stem. The seeds must undergo a cold season and will only germinate in the fall of the second year.
The star flower grows well in dry, sandy and acidic soils. They can even withstand the acidic soils of bogs, wetlands, and heaths. They prefer dappled shade but can thrive in full sun if the soil is consistently moist.
While the star flower is not highly prized by florists for use in floral decorations and bouquets, these hardy plants can make for a wonderful addition to woodland gardens. They require little to moderate care and will thrive well with other flowering plants.
What do Star Flowers Symbolize?
The star flower meaning is associated with the color and shape of the flower. The pure white blossoms of the star flower are now classified under the genus Lysimachia. Some of the plants of the Lysimachia family are known for their styptic and astringent properties. It is believed that these properties were first discovered by King Lysimachus of Thrace.
According to a popular legend, the King of Thrace, Lysimachus was once walking through a field. During his walk, he encountered a raging bull. The bull began to give chase and King Lysimachus was forced to run away to protect himself. As he ran, he plucked some stalks of the loosestrife plant that belongs to the same genus and waved it in front of the bull. To his amazement, the bull calmed down and stopped chasing the King!
The genus also draws its name from two Greek words, lysis meaning ‘a release from’ and mache meaning ‘strife’. This is the name of the plant – loosestrife which is a reference to the properties of the plants in this genus to relieve and calm animals in pain or in strife.
The ability of the plants in the Lysimachia genus also lends significance to the star flower meaning. Star flowers are symbolic of calmness, peace, and tranquillity. They bring a sense of calm and balance to the environment. Their hardy and adaptive nature is also a testament to their resilience under a variety of conditions.
The star flower meaning also has biblical associations. Like the northern star that guided the three wise men to Jesus or the star ornament on top of the Christmas tree, the star flower also carries meanings of light and guidance. The star flower meaning is symbolic of light, guidance, and direction. It is also indicative of our inner light and consciousness. It is a wonderfully symbolic reminder of the light we hold in ourselves and our capacities for reaching higher levels of consciousness and empowerment.
What do the Various Colors of the Star Flower Mean?
As a common wildflower in the woodlands, forests, and wetlands of the Mid-West in the United States and the southern Appalachian Mountains, the star flower is not a popular flower. Its popularity among florists and horticulturists is still in its nascent stage. Yet, the star flower is not without meaning.
The Northern star flower is pure white in color with bright yellow anthers. These flowers have between 5-9 petals and have the distinct shape of a star. These shine bright against a carpet of verdant green foliage in the forests. Other flowers of different colors commonly called the star flower belong to different genera and families. The Lysimachia borealis is a white flower. The star flower meaning is closely linked to this pure white color.
White Star Flower Meaning
Like most white flowers, the white star flower is symbolic of purity and innocence. The star flower meaning also has biblical significance with reference to the northern star that guided the three wise men to Baby Jesus. The white star flower also stands for truth, honesty, modesty, and elegance.
Interesting Facts and Characteristics of the Star Flower
The star flower is a common wildflower that grows from underground slender rhizomes. The plant spreads widely. But it can also be grown using the seeds of the plant once it goes dormant in the mid-summer season.
The star flower can withstand the acidic soils of wetlands, marshes, bogs, and heaths. Given its wide habitat and ability to thrive under a variety of different conditions, the star flower is a hardy plant that can be added to your wildflower or woodland gardens.
While the star flower has no known culinary or medicinal properties, it was said to be used by some Native American tribes to treat eye problems. The Eastern chipmunk consumes the seeds of the star flower as a part of its diet. The flowers of this plant are also pollinated by native bees and attract beautiful butterflies.
Some plants that belong to the genus Lysimachia are said to possess astringent and styptic properties that can soothe wounds, pain, and stop blood flow respectively. These were said to be discovered by King Lysimachus of Thrace. Some plants in the Lysimachia genus are used for medicinal purposes in traditional Chinese herbal remedies. Different species of plants in the genus are used for treating eye ailments, skin infections, jaundice, and urinary tract disorders.
The star flower plant can be confused with the Indian cucumber root plant. The star flower is white in color while the Indian cucumber root has dangling yellow flowers. The Indian cucumber root can also be a two-storied plant with two whorls of leaves. The distinguishing feature of the star flower plant is its foliage. The leaves have parallel veins that grow from the base of the leaves to their tips.
Best Time to Gift Someone Star Flowers
Star flowers are not considered to be showy enough to include in floral decorations and bouquets. That is why they are not a popular flower among florists. Yet, the star flower meaning and symbolism make it an ideal flower to gift someone on a variety of different occasions.
The star flower meaning is associated with biblical symbolism. They are likened to the northern star guiding the three mages on their way to Bethlehem. The star flower, also known as the Star of Bethlehem, can be a perfect gift over the holiday season. Since the flowers bloom in the summer season, they can be dried and added to seasonal festive décor and wedding decorations for a rustic and bohemian feel.
Star flowers can also be gifted to people to appreciate their achievements, resilience, and personhood. They can be gifted to convey gratitude, admiration, and happiness. They can be presented as standalone flowers and can even make for great additions to bouquets and flower vases.