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What is a Starflower?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

A starflower is a type of flowering plant, though the name is used in conjunction with a number of different plants from different regions of the world. In Australia, for example, the name typically refers to various species of a plant belonging to the genus Calytrix that produces flowers that resemble stars. Similarly, a flowering herb found throughout much of the Mediterranean bares the same name and produces star-shaped flowers consisting of five triangular petals that make up a star. A starflower in the United States (US) or the United Kingdom (UK) typically refers to one of several different species of flowering plants belonging to the genus Trientalis.

Though these plants come from many different parts of the world, they all typically share the common trait of producing star-shaped flowers, giving them their name. In the US, the Trientalis borealis or northern starflower, is quite common throughout much of the North, Pacific Northwest and East regions of the country. These starflowers are especially noted for the unusual way in which the number seven seems to be represented by the flowers. They have green leaves and white flowers, and they commonly produce seven leaves, seven flower petals, and seven sepals within the flower.

Starflowers are common throughout the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
Starflowers are common throughout the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

There is also a plant found primarily in California known as the Pacific starflower or Trientalis latifolia, though there is some debate regarding whether it is a unique species or a subspecies of the northern starflower. In the UK, the European starflower or Trientalis europaea grows in marshlands throughout England and Scotland. Due to the cultivation of these lands, however, these starflowers have diminished in number and are considered endangered in some areas. A starflower in Australia typically belongs to the genus of plants known as Calytrix and can be one of many different species. Australian starflowers are typically fairly small shrubs, which produce white flowers that consist of a number of petals that give the flowers the shape of a star.

In areas throughout the Mediterranean, as well as North Africa and parts of Asia, a starflower typically refers to the flowers of an herb called borage. This herb produces star-shaped flowers that are usually blue in color, and they are grown for a number of different purposes, including for use in cooking and making dietary supplements. Borage seed oil is commonly used for a number of different supplements and the herb itself can be used in soups or in making filling for stuffed pasta.

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    • Starflowers are common throughout the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
      By: Aleksander Bolbot
      Starflowers are common throughout the U.S. Pacific Northwest.