The advance of the themids

Jane McGary
Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:56:27 PDT
Thanks to Jim McKenney for pointing out the usefulness of plants in 
the Themidaceae (the "brodiaeas," formerly Alliaceae, before that 
Liliaceae) at this time of year. This is truly the time of western 
American bulbs: themids, Calochortus, and Allium. Many of them flower 
long after the leaves emerge, sometimes even after the leaves wither. 
Almost all the themids are long-stemmed in habit, growing in nature 
among grasses and shrubs (one, Dichelostemma volubile, even twines to 
climb shrubs). I wonder why so many late-flowering bulbs have evolved 
in this region? Some are hummingbird-pollinated -- Dichelostemma 
ida-maia probably exclusively by birds.

Bloomeria crocea, which Jim praised, is best appreciated when the 
plant has been established for some years, as the inflorescence gets 
larger with age (the "bulb" is a corm in all the themids). Triteleia 
ixioides, another one with yellow flowers, is quite variable over its 
large range; some I grew from seed I collected in Monterey County, 
CA, have very large inflorescences. I'm also enjoying a commercial 
Dutch selection, Triteleia 'Rudy' (not sure whether it's a selection 
of T. laxa or a hybrid), in which the usual median stripes are very 
pronounced; it increases well in a dry spot.

I'd also recommend Triteleia peduncularis, which has white, 
lavender-flushed flowers on extremely long, slender pedicels. The 
attenuated visual quality of the inflorescence means it's not showy 
in the garden, but looked at closely it demands attention. It is 
hardy to at least the mid-teens F.

All of these plants are easily grown from stored seeds, usually 
flowering the third year from sowing. Telos Rare Bulbs also sells 
corms of many.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

At 06:15 AM 6/16/2014, you wrote:
>It's themid season here in Maryland, and this year one in particular 
>stands out as a really neat plant: that's Bloomeria crocea.  I 
>mistakenly thought it would be just another take on Triteleia 
>ixioides, but I like it a lot more. The umbel is about six inches in 
>diameter, and the largest of the nearly thirty flowers is a bit over 
>an inch in diameter. To my tastes, it does the yellow flowering 
>onion thing better than any yellow allium I know. It's a keeper!
>The forms of Brodiaea californica with big flowers on long pedicels 
>are neat, especially the pink ones.

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