Dichelostemma capitatum: Don’t Google Its Common Name


“Blue thou art, intensely blue; Flower, whence came thy dazzling hue?”

— James Montgomery (British poet, campaigner to end child exploitation)

The winter rains have blessed us with a bounty of wildflowers.  As I headed out to the mountains last Sunday, I hoped that a break in the rain would give me the opportunity to shoot a few flora photos.  Just before sunset, I rounded a curve and caught sight of violet-blue gems dancing in the tall grass.  The oncoming storm was preceded by gusts of wind that sent the little flowers bobbing and swinging.  I quickly pulled onto the muddy shoulder and pulled out my camera. As I knelt in the grass considering the possibility of a sleeping snake, I quickly identified these beauties as Dichelostemma capitatum sp. capitatum, mdicksonhillore commonly known as Blue Dicks. The blossoms are clusters of four to ten flowers each with six petal-like lobes that grow on leafless stems.  Blue Dicks are native to California (as well as Arizona, Oregon, Utah, New Mexico and northern Mexico).  Along the Central Coast, they start to show their flowers in late February and they continue to bloom until May. Because these flowers like disturbed areas, they are often seen along trails and roadsides.  If you kneel on them as I accidentally did, you will find that the crushed leaves smell like onions. Native Americans harvested the corms (the onion-like bulb) as a source of starch. Blue Dicks can be grown in a perennial garden as well (best from corms) and look exceptionally pretty with California poppies or other flowering bulbs.  Dave’s Garden and Plant Soup have more information on growing requirements and plant combinations.

To learn more about this special little plant, look under the botanical name Dichelostemma capitatum. Whatever you do, do not type in “Blue Dicks” and, definitely, do not select Images.  Trust me. Just don’t. There are things you cannot unsee.

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