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 hypanthium (floral cup formed from the fusion of petals, sepals, and stamens) has a squared-off base (truncate)
    • Ovary superior (above the attachment of 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.
Fruits © SLindner
Greya Moth on Lithophragma species
© SBernhard

Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)

  • Wildlife
    • Lithophragma species can self-pollinate or be pollinated by insects, e.g. solitary bees, bombyliid flies, and Greya moths (Thompson 2013/2017)
    • An interesting relationship occurs with the moth Greya politella, a floral parasite that lays its eggs in the flower’s ovary
      • The flower attracts the moth with a specfic scent
      • In the process of drinking nectar and laying its eggs, the moth pollinates the flower
      • Hatched larvae eat some, but not all, of the seeds
      • This is an example of a coevolving mutualism as both moth and plant benefit
  • Native people
    • Ate leaves and stems as greens (Anderson 2005)
    • 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

Anderson, M.K. 2005. Tending the Wild. University of California, Berkeley.

Thompson, J.N., C. Schwind, and M. Friberg. 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.