Blue Star or Amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana)

It’s appropriate to write about Amsonia tabernaemontana on Mother’s Day. I can’t think of this flower without simultaneously thinking of my mom. It is her favorite; and she was the first to spot it on Ozarkedge.

Latin Name/Common Name- Amsonia is named for Charles Amson- an 18th century scientific explorer from Virginia. My research shows that the term, Tabernaemontana is the Latin form of Bergzabern, meaning mountain cottage. I would like to understand this better, so if anyone has more information, please post a note. The common name, Blue star refers to the star shaped flowers.

Bloom Color- There is no blue like the blue flowers of Amsonia tabernaemontana.You could describe it best as ‘take your breath away’  blue—because that’s what happens when you see the patch in full bloom.

I looked up every named color of blue in Wikipedia, as well as other Internet sites. The closest  color I could find to describe the dark base of this flower was slate blue. But, really, it’s more vibrant than that. The flower petals are much paler than the base, almost an icy shade of slate.

Indescribably beautiful blue

Description- The leaves of Amsonia tabernmontanae are almost lime green when they emerge in spring. They darken to a true, bright green when mature. The leaves are lanceolate and have long petioles. They arise in alternate fashion from a smooth, hairless stem. The leaf edges are ciliate, meaning fringy. Underneath, the leaves are a paler green and may be pubescent.

Lanceolate leaf with ciliate margins

Leaf underside is paler green and pubescent

Long petioles

Stout, smooth stem

Bright green mature leaves

Multitude of flowers at terminal end of stem

The light blue hairs that protrude from the bud hint at the color of the flower to come

Macro view of a single blossom

Erect slender seed pods in early May

Each flower consists of 5, star-like petals of light blue fastened onto a darker base. The contrast between the shades of blue and green on this plant is part of its special beauty.

Bloom Time- On Ozarkedge, the amsonia are in full bloom sometime during the month of April. But one doesn’t have to wait for full bloom to have a visual treat. The emerging buds are almost as beautiful in the way that the dark blue buds contrast with the new, lime green leaves. Take a look.

Three views of the emerging flower buds in contrast with the spring green leaves

The flower in bloom

A patch of Amsonia tabernaemontana in full bloom

I’ve tried to capture the pure loveliness of the amsonia patch in full bloom with my camera. Perhaps my photography skills are not yet up to the task because I’m always disappointed that the picture doesn’t capture the “take your breath away” sensation you get when you see them in person.

Habitat- Amsonia tabernaemontana grows in a patch in the mesic woodlands on Ozarkedge. These woods are rocky and hilly. My research shows that they may also grow in limestone glades, borders of streams or moist, sandy meadows.

Amsonia in bloom in the mesic woods of Ozark Edge

What’s Growing Nearby? The big leaves of May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum) grow amongst the blooming amsonia. The May Apple have already shed their blossoms and are in fruit well before the amsonia flower. Another nearby friend is Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). The bloodroot is an early bloomer, but the beautiful single leaves continue to grow through May and are found in abundance mingled with those of the amsonia.

Groundleaf roundsel (Senecio obovatus) blooms alongside the amsonia. This makes for a beautiful site as its blooms are bright yellow. On the opposite side of the amsonia patch, the bright red flowers of the Buckeye trees (Aesculus pavia) provide another lovely color combination.

May Apple and Blood root leaves growing alongside the amsonia

Mayapple in flower and large May apple leaf surrounded by amsonia flowers

Bloodroot flower and leaf

Buckeye in bloom simultaneously with amsonia

Roundleaf groundsel flowers

Endangered List- Amsonia tabernaemontana is found from from the eastern edge of the US and as far west as Texas. It’s northern range reaches New York and southern range is Florida.  It’s listed as a plant of Special Concern in Tennessee and threatened in Kentucky. Click here to see the latest status on the USDA Plants Database.  This link should take you to the General page showing a map with US distribution. Click on the Legal tab on  to see the latest updates on its Threatened and Endangered status.

Interesting Tidbits- The stem will bleed a milky sap if broken. This is said to be toxic to mammals, but I have seen amsonia browsed by white tail deer, so I’m not sure if that’s true.

Ruby-Throated hummingbirds, butterflies and ladybugs can all be found enjoying the nectar of Amsonia tabernaemontana.