Wildflowers in bloom

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Sat, 19 Apr 2003 11:09:53 PDT
Dear All,

This is the time of the year when our California wildflowers are in bloom 
and it is such a treat to be out hiking and discover them as we walk. The 
shorter Zigadenus fremontii started blooming months ago and now the taller 
ones are blooming too. The Trilliums are fading, but I have seen my first 
Brodiaea terrestris and expect to see more and more as we are having a wet 
spring. And I have seen Calochortus in bud as well. The ones in pots are 
always earlier than those in the ground.

I was amused at Brian Whyer's comments about killing the Alliums. On my 
hike Thursday we passed a small patch of Allium unifolium. Where I live it 
is almost always found in very wet spots where it can be quite numerous, 
but you don't see it expanding to other areas. In fact it barely grows and 
doesn't expand in my much dryer garden when I plant it in the ground. I 
once asked Jim Robinett why some of these California Alliums known for 
there expansive qualities like Allium hyalinum which doubles for me in pots 
and never does anything in the ground don't do better for me in the ground. 
He speculated that they weren't getting water long enough, but who knows. 
On the other hand Allium triquetrum is an ever expanding pest in coastal 
northern California. I notice it these days up and down the road on Highway 
One. I'm not sure anyone has tried to kill it. Where I live people frown on 
using herbicides to kill the weedy things so mostly Cal Trans (the highway 
folks) just mows.

Blooming now in the wild and viewed on the Thursday hike was Camassia 
quamash growing right next to the Bluff Trail in a wet depression. All but 
one were purple. In the middle was a sole white one. As I was putting a 
picture on the wiki I had to make a Camassia page and pondered what family 
to give it. In the latest journal of the California Native Plant Society 
there is an article by Dean G. Kelch entitled "Consider the Lilies." In it 
he reports the families all the genera that were considered to be in 
Liliaceae by The Jepson Manual are now assigned to by the taxonomists based 
on dna. Camassia is now partnered with Agave, Chlorogalum, Hastingsia, 
Hesperocallis, Hesperoyuucca, and Yucca in the Agavaceae family.

He states that it is possible the desert-adapted plants like agaves evolved 
from woodland herbs like Hosta via Hesperocallis or Polianthes. He points 
out that until we have a field lens powerful enough to count chromosomes 
this family will be hard to identify by common characteristics in the 
field. From desert to woodland is quite a range of habitats.

Anyone who wants to see the two colors of Camassia we saw can see them on 
the Wiki page:


Alan Meerow recently wrote that the latest proposal is to have one family 
for Alliaceae,
Amaryllidaceae and Agapanthaceae. So now that Liliaceae has been nicely 
divided, others are going to be combined. Alliaceae has really made the 
rounds. For us gardeners it is challenging to keep up, much less 
understand. All of the books that arrange plants by families are soon out 
of date these days so I am always happy to see genera listed alphabetically.

Mary Sue
Mary Sue Ittner
California's North Coast
Wet mild winters with occasional frost
Dry mild summers

More information about the pbs mailing list