Sunday, May 24, 2009

Starflower -- Trientalis borealis

The starflower (Trientalis borealis) is a tiny woodland wildflower found in Maine and northern forests. It flowers here in Augusta, Maine in mid May, just as the giant trees above it put out their leaves and put the forest floor in shade. It blooms at the same time as Jack in the Pulpits and after the wood anenomes, trilliums and trout lilies have gone by.

The flower of the starflower is about the size of your index fingernail. The flower stem is thinner than a paper clip. The flower and stem wave an inch or two over the flattened star of leaves like a kite string and its tiny white kite. Even the slightest breath of air in the woods set them to waving. Bees are too big to land on them. Instead, starflowers are pollinated by tiny woodland ants and wasps and midges. To them, a 3 inch high starflower is like an apple tree. And all of this happens below an 80 foot high red oak or white pine or ash tree.

To really see the starflower you have to lie down on the forest floor, put your chin in the leaves, and look at it as you would a small but brilliant gemstone, or the smooth and polished rock a child proudly brings you from the surf line at the beach.

Like so much in life, seeing and appreciating the starflower depends on adjusting your height, and from that, your perspective.

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