Alpine shooting-star, or Primula tetrandra (syn. Dodecatheon alpinum), is a perennial species native to moist montane environments of western USA (up to 3500m (11500 ft.). This makes it an associate of the coniferous forests typical of these montane regions, although it is far more likely to be spotted along streams and shallow rivulets with exposure to full sun.
The inflorescence of alpine shooting-star resembles the shape of a rocket and its plume of exhaust. The “plume” of the petals reveals a gorgeous transition of colours from near-black to yellow, white, and finally a lavender-pink. A single elongated stigma protrudes from the blossom, the “nose” of the rocket.
The pollen of alpine shooting-star is held firmly by the black anthers, requiring bumblebees to perform buzz-pollination (for a video of buzz pollination in slow motion, see Buzz Pollination by Dr. Karl Foord of the University of Minnesota Extension). As the flowers age, they move from being nodding to erect and upright. Primula tetrandra has between 1-9 flowers per inflorescence. The 10-35cm (4-14 in.) tall plants can be seen blooming in late spring and summer (depending on snowpack, snowmelt, elevation, and other environmental factors associated with mountains).
See CalPhotos for more images of Primula tetrandra.