Hill Star

Hill Star © KKorbholz

Hillside Woodland Star
Lithophragma heterophyllum

Description (Jepson, PlantID.net)

    • Eudicotyledon
      • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
    • Saxifrage Family (Saxifragaceae)
    • Perennial herb from rhizomes (horizontal underground stems)
    • Leaves
      • Rounded basal leaves with shallow, scalloped lobes, on long stalks (petioles)
      • Any stem leaves are alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem), with deeper lobing
    • Flowers
      • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a single, tall, nodding raceme (unbranched stem with stalked flowers opening from the bottom up)
      • Star-shaped flowers with 5 white, unfused petals, each with variably-shaped lobes
      • Yellow-green floral cup (hypanthium) with a squared-off base
      • Ovary superior (attached above other flower parts)
    • Fruit a capsule (a dry, multi-chambered fruit that splits open at maturity) with spiny seeds
    • Height 8-20 in.


      • Native and endemic (limited) to California
        • Grows predominantly in shady, well-drained slopes of oak or mixed foothill woodlands
        • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
      • Grows at elevations to 4,920 ft.

      Uses (Picking or removing any natural material from public land is illegal)

        • Species in the genus Lithophragma can self-pollinate or be pollinated by various insect species, e.g. solitary bees and bombyliid flies (Thompson 2017)
          • An interesting relationship occurs with the Greya moths, floral parasites that lay their eggs in the flower ovary
            • In the process of laying its eggs, the moth pollinates the flower
            • Hatched larvae eat some, but not all, of the seeds
            • This is an example of mutualism as both moth and plant benefit
        • Native people chewed the roots to treat colds and stomach aches

        Name Derivation

          • Lithophragma (lith-oh-FRAG-ma) – from the Greek lithos, meaning “rock,” and phragma, for “hedge” or “fence”
          • heterophylum (het-er-OH-fi-lum) – from the Greek heteros, “different,” and phyllon, ”leaf,” as the leaves differ on the same plant
          Hill Star (L), Woodland Star (R)
          © DSchiel

          ID Tips

            • May be confused with woodland star (L. affine)
              • Hill star’s floral-cup base is squared-off (blunt)
              • Woodland star’s floral-cup base is “V” shaped
            • Mnemonic
              • Hill star’s squared-off base is half of an “H” (Hill), whereas the woodland star’s V-shaped base is half of a “W” (Woodland)

            At Edgewood

              • Found in woodlands
              • Flowers March – June

              See General References

              Specific References

                Thompson, J.N., Schwind, C., and Friberg, M. 2017, Aug. Diversification of Trait Combinations in Coevolving Plant and Insect Lineages. The American Naturalist, 190: 2. University of Chicago Press Journals.

                  Thompson, J.N., et al. 2013. Diversification through Multitrait Evolution in a Co-evolving Interaction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, California.