poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘Trientalis borealis

American Star-flower (Trientalis borealis Raf.)

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Crisp November nights are a perfect time for a quick look up at the stars.  I’ll be including some posts about our star-gazing, but for now, my thoughts are still turning back to summer.  Stars in the sky?  There are also stars in the dark summer woods.

The American Star-flower, Trientalis borealis Raf., is a plant with a delicate white, star-shaped flower, found in late spring in woodlands and on peaty slopes.  Its scientific name comes from the Latin word for the third part of a foot, a reference to the height of the plant, and the Latin borealis, meaning northern.  It is a common little plant, described by Fernald as a “forest pioneer”.

Some will wonder what the ‘Raf.’ refers to, at the end of the scientific name.  This is an attribution to the botanist who first named the plant.  In many cases, the attribution is ‘L.’, meaning the plant was first named by Carolus Linnaeus (the biologist who first introduced the ‘binomial’ naming system for plants). 

‘Raf.’ stands for Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz who first assigned the genus and species names to the plant –  Trientalis borealis.  He was an eccentric polymath (knowledgeable in many fields and disciplines) who lived from 1783 to 1840.  In his lifetime he published 6,700 binomial names for plants.



            Trientalis borealis Raf.





lost from the sky

four inches high

            (the Latin name

            makes claim)

petals white

boreal light

fallen down

first found

by Constantine

now often seen

            it’s little lamp

            above the damp

a forest pioneer

final frontier

up above

twinkling of

stamen and star

who you are

I wonder

and wander

down a trail blazed

by a frail flower

one candle power


Published as: ‘Star Flower’, Winter 1993, The Antigonish Review 92.


© Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

November 23, 2011 at 6:35 am

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