Plant of the Month ~~ APRIL 2009
In many places within our mountains in the spring months, it is common to find the purple flowerheads of Blue Dicks nodding in the breeze. They can be found in bloom from February to May in colors ranging from white to pink to blue to purple. What at first seems like a singular flower on top a smooth, slender stem up to two feet long, on closer examination is found to be a ball-shaped cluster of up to 20 individual flowers. The leaves are grasslike and appear only at the base, skinny and up to 18 inches long. The plant propogates either by seed or from underground corms. After wildfire, it is the corms more than the seeds that most assist in the plant's recovery. The corms were a popular food source with native people. Wildlife such as deer and rabbits also are attracted to the corms as a food source.
Blue Dicks' scientific names Dichelostemma translates as "a garland which is twice-parted to the middle," having to do with the appearance of the stamens, and capitatum refers to the terminal head structure of the flower cluster. The family this plant belongs to is perhaps open to interpretation... in researching, I found it listed under Amaryllidaceae (a segregate of the broader Liliaceae family), Liliaceae itself, and Themidaceae (not frequently recognized on its own as a family but sometimes as a segregate of Asparagaceae).
Contributed by Liz Baumann
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References:Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Roadside Plants of Southern California, by Thomas J. Belzer
California Native Plants for the Garden, by Carol Bornstein, David Fross, and Bart O'Brien
California Herbal Remedies, by LoLo Westrich