Plants on planet Earth have no literal resemblance to the distant fiery gas balls we call stars, but certain plant parts can resemble the multi-pointed decorative shapes that humans have used for centuries to depict stars. Those starry qualities also show up in plant names such as star magnolia (Magnolia stellata; stella is the Latin root for star), whose lovely white flowers put on a lovely spring show, even if the star
resemblance is a bit iffy. Other plants with star-related flowers and names include the North American wildflower, starry campion (Silene stellata), and common chickweed (Stellaria media), a non-native but widely naturalized weedy annual that, even under its more charming alternate common name of starwort, will get yanked out of my garden.
Stars also show up in the name of a type of minute hair found on certain plants’ leaves or other parts. Stellate trichomes are multi-branched, star-shaped hairs; it often requires some level of magnification to see them clearly but they can be useful in plant identification. The specific epithet for post oak (Quercus stellata), an American species in the white oak group, refers to the scattered stellate hairs found on its leaves.
A more obscure but very interesting stellar connection is found in plants that have the specific epithet septentrionalis. “Septentrional” means “northern” and refers to the seven (sept-) stars in the Big Dipper (or possibly the Little Dipper), readily visible from the Northern Hemisphere. English speakers are more likely to use the word “boreal” for northern, but septentrional is used in Latin-based languages such as French and Spanish. Species examples include northern woodland violet (Viola septentrionalis) and Androsace septentrionalis, a small herbaceous plant with several common names including the delightful “northern fairy candelabra.”