Mary Sue Ittner
Wed, 18 Jun 2003 07:20:18 PDT
Dear All,

Below is a description of the Brodiaeas that I grow. Taking Diana's 
suggestion I have taken out the size of these since I agree that there is 
much variation and also that garden grown plants take on a character of 
their own which is often different from the ones you see in the wild. I 
also left out elevations when I started realizing that the different books 
aren't in agreement.

Brodiaea californica is endemic to California and is found growing in light 
woods and open meadows in Northern California. It is the largest of the 
species. Blooming from May to July, it is variable in color from white to 
lavender and occasionally pink with long, gradually flared petals and short 
rounded tubes and linear white wavy staminodes longer than the stamens and 
standing against them. I have a pink one which is quite striking, but I 
like the blue one too.  I also grow the subspecies leptandra which offsets 

Brodiaea californica  ssp. leptandra is restricted to lava and serpentine 
slopes in Napa, Lake, and Sonoma counties and is generally smaller (shorter 
and with smaller flowers). Both of these are in bloom right not and usually 
bloom for me in June.

Brodiaea coronaria is found in the hills of northern and central 
California, usually in meadows, often in clay, gravely alkaline soil and 
extends north to Oregon and Washington. Flowers are blue-violet, 
blue-purple, pink-purple or rose and blooming occurs from May to July. This 
plant has a bell-shaped tube with flowers curving upwards and white to 
purple hornlike staminodes that lean inward around the fertile stamens. The 
form I grow hasn't increased much and doesn't usually set seed so I 
probably need to grow this from seed. I did have seed from the Scottish 
Rock Garden but it turned out to be Triteleia laxa which I have already in 
huge quantities and many different forms.

Brodiaea elegans - This species is found is meadows and open woods, mostly 
inland from Central California north to southern Oregon. It has blue-purple 
to violet flowers in a funnel shaped tube and is distinguished by white 
pointed staminodes which stand against the tepals and away from the 
stamens. It blooms from May to July, often after the leaves have 
withered.  This one is a favorite of mine.  I think it is quite striking 
and really easy to identify as the staminodes are so different from many of 
the others. And it is one that I see when I am out hiking sometimes 
although it is usually found a bit away from the coast.

Brodiaea filifolia --Commonly known as the thread-leaved brodiaea, this 
species is endemic to California and considered endangered. It is found in 
clay soil in vernal-pool habitats and grassland in Southern California. It 
flowers from April to June and the red-purple to blue flower tube is short 
and urnlike with the petals at right angles. It is distinguished by 3 white 
staminodes that are tiny and narrowly triangular. This one is also 
distinctive and just started to bloom on Monday. I got mine from the 
Robinetts in their close-out sale. It probably isn't as showy as some of 
the others.

Brodiaea jolonensis-- Commonly known as Jolon brodiaea, this species is 
found in grasslands and foothill woodlands in the central and south Coast 
Ranges to northern Baja California. Blooming from April to June, this is a 
short species with violet blossoms and an urn-shaped tube with violet 
staminodes with inrolled margins and purple anthers. This one is the first 
to bloom for me and has a long blooming time. I am rather fond of it. I 
haven't tried it in the ground as it hasn't offset much, but I've grown 
more from seed so I can experiment. It seemed quite happy in my new raised 
beds this year and even though it is native to a drier climate has done 
just fine with my wet winters.

Brodiaea pallida--Commonly known as Chinese Camp brodiaea, this is a rare 
California endemic, considered rare and endangered and found in serpentine 
substrate under vernally-flooded conditions in riparian habitats near 
Chinese Camp, Tuolumne County. It has pale purple or lilac flowers, 
sometimes with a white center and the tube is urn-shaped. The staminodes 
are erect, white, and held close to the stamens with inrolled margins and 
deeply notched tips.  This one I also obtained from the Robinetts. I like 
the coloring of  the one I have. I'm never quite sure about how to grow it. 
I always get some blooms, but not all the corms bloom. I haven't tried 
setting it in a pot of water, but should try that sometime to see if that 
increases blooming.

Brodiaea purdyi --Commonly known as Purdy's brodiaea, this species is found 
in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California in open woodlands and 
often on serpentine. It has blue-violet flowers distinguished by narrow 
spreading tepals and an urn-like tube. The white staminodes are narrow, 
erect, held close to the stamens but above the petals, with inrolled 
margins and notched tips. It blooms from April to June. This one is easy to 
tell from the others because of the spreading tepals. In Bulbs of North 
America it was described as not very attractive and I am puzzled by that 
because I don't agree. It has been very easy to grow and very tolerant. I 
also grow a cultivar from the Robinetts they called 'Blue Ribbons' which is 
quite nice. I must admit I have mixed feelings about something named after 
the man who managed to plunder a huge quantity of California's bulbs as he 
dug them from the wild and shipped them away.

Brodiaea stellaris--The star-flowered brodiaea is a low-grower  (except as 
Diana says when it isn't) and is found on serpentine slopes in the middle 
Coast Ranges from Sonoma County to Humboldt County. It has blue-purple 
flowers with wide, blunt, white staminodes and small appendages behind the 
anthers and blooms May-July. It looks very much like B. terrestris and the 
identifying appendages you really need a lens to see. Although it grows in 
both the counties I hike in it is much farther inland so I don't think I 
have run into it. I have one I planted in a raised bed maybe ten years ago 
that is blooming now. It has never increased at all . Perhaps it doesn't 
like where it is. I'd never probably find it in that bed so may have to try 
seed if I want to grow it elsewhere. We couldn't get the camera to focus on 
it in that bed so had to cheat with a background.

Brodiaea terrestris--Commonly known as dwarf brodiaea or earth brodiaea, 
this species is a coastal bluff and coastal prairie plant with stems 
appearing to be half buried beneath the soil. It grows from California to 
Oregon. The flowers are light blue to blue-violet with a triangular tube. 
The angled staminodes are white and square-topped. It blooms from April 
into June depending on the location. There are two subspecies with one 
supposed to have bigger flowers. This is the species that I see every 
spring by the thousands growing on the bluff, in the grassy areas, in the 
pathways. It is very short in habitat. It is often seen in very wet areas 
and my attempts to establish it in the ground in my garden have been less 
than successful, but it has grown in containers where it gets much bigger. 
I just don't have any places in my garden that stay really wet (except for 
the year there was a leak in the water pipes.) Those years that are very 
wet and with late rains it is very happy. Since it is so short I believe it 
is overwhelmed by other plants.
If there was a fire to clear everything out it would probably be 
everywhere. Pictures on the wiki are all in habitat.

I also grow B. minor, or shall I say I purchased corms, but they have not 
grown well and never flowered. I have seedlings coming on from Northwest 
Natives that seem much more vigorous so perhaps eventually I'll get to see 
what that species looks like.

Are there any others in this group besides Diana who grow Brodiaea who will 
share their experiences?

I agree with Jaime that Triteleia laxa is a great plant for naturalizing 
and I like the color of 'Queen Fabiola' too. I grew Triteleia laxa in 
Stockton in my clay soil in ground covers that needed less water than grass 
that were watered weekly in summer and mowed a few times a year and it was 
increasing well so it was quite a patch of blue when it bloomed. It 
obviously can survive with and without water during dormancy.

Tomorrow I'll describe the species I don't grow.

Oh and I have pictures either Bob or I took of these plants on the Wiki. 
The formatting is still a problem, but you can see the pictures of the 
plants I have just described. Many of them are close-ups since the leaves 
aren't very attractive at this point and also I wanted to illustrate the 
staminodes (false stamens) since they are often what you look at when you 
are trying to identify them. In the guides they pull apart the flowers and 
show them in cross section so you can see the structure of the flowers.…

Mary Sue

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

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