Wildflower of the Week: Dwarf Brodiaea

Deep in the Pt. Lobos woods, there’s a dwarf brodiaea (Brodiaea terrestris) that always seems to bloom a little later than the others. It’s in bloom now so, in honor of that event, we’re making it our Wildflower of the Week.

The late-blooming brodiaea

This flower’s small stature is the main thing that distinguishes it from other Brodiaeas, and the closely related Triteleias. Dwarf brodiaeas are so short they bloom practically on the ground. They are native to California and Oregon.

Like the Trilliums and star lilies, the Brodiaeas were once considered part of the Lily family (the Liliaceae). Then some botanists began arguing that Brodiaeas were really more closely related to onions or amaryllis and placed them in those families. After DNA analysis suggested they were actually closer to hyacinths and asparagus, they were tossed (together with some other things, like Dichelostemma) into a new family called the Themidaceae. They’re not lilies, they’re not onions, they’re not amaryllis, they’re just … well … “them.”*

But that wasn’t the end of it. The current thinking seems to be that the Brodiaeas should be considered part of an enlarged asparagus family (the Asparagaceae). Stay tuned.

Dwarf Brodiaea at the Indians

* Actually, this family name was derived from the long-defunct genus, Themis.

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