Mary Sue Ittner
Mon, 16 Jun 2003 12:13:05 PDT
Dear All,

I am sorry to be a little late with this introduction for the topic of the 
week, but I had company this weekend. This topic finishes the discussion of 
the three genera in the Brodiaea complex. We first talked about Triteleia, 
then Dichelostemma, and now Brodiaea. Most of the species of these three 
are native to California and some of the species are found farther north 
and south. I started wanting to know more about them a number of years ago 
when I was struggling with the keys in a number of my books and trying to 
figure out how to tell them apart. I thought if I did my own key perhaps I 
could finally understand them. That has helped and there are now some 
species that come really easily for me, but others are still a challenge. 
Since I tend to be really long winded as you all have noticed I have 
decided to take a page from Uli's book when a number of years ago he 
introduced Hippeastrum species on another forum for me. Instead of writing 
a very long introduction he wrote something shorter every day.

So here is the first part:
Brodiaea  is a genus with sixteen species including four with two 
subspecies each restricted to  western North America, ranging 
geographically from Vancouver, B.C. to Baja California. Brodiaea plants are 
produced annually from a corm that also produces 2 to 15 adjacent offset 
cormlets in the axils of old leaf bases. Cormlets produce fleshy 
contractile roots that disperse the cormlets away from the parent. Once 
they are adult sized the production of contractile roots cease.  Leaves are 
basal, generally 3-5, narrow and grassy, made more so by their inrolled 
margins. The flowers are upfacing, often richly colored and waxy. Flowers 
have six tepals that are united at the base in a bell- to funnel-shaped 
tube in two petal-like whorls with the inner whorl wider. The segments of 
the tube often have purple stripes. Flower color is blue, purple, pink, or 
white. Sterile stamens, known as staminodes, are often petal-like and 
lighter colored than the outer tepals and alternate with three, usually 
smaller fertile stamens and are distinctive in each species. Flowers of 
Brodiaea are self-incompatible being pollinated by many different 
pollinators (bee flies, butterflies, flower beetles, and sweat bees.) 
Brodiaea is differentiated from Dichelostemma by a flowering stem that is 
generally straight not curved or twisted, an umbel that is typically open, 
not dense, and the presence of three sterile stamens instead of  crown-like 
appendages to the filaments that form a tube outside the anthers. Brodiaea 
is differentiated from Triteleia by having only three fertile stamens 
instead of 6. This genus has been considered to be a part of many different 
families (Amaryllidaceae, Alliaceae, Liliaceae). Recent work is now placing 
it in a new family, Themidaceae, which includes other California genera 
(Androstephium, Bloomeria, Dichelostemma, Muilla, and Triteleia.)

In later posts I will discuss how I grow them, species commonly in 
cultivation, other species and where they are from, and clues for telling 
them apart. In the meantime everyone else is free to chime in and I can 
prune my offerings if it has already been covered.

Mary Sue

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