Blue Dicks

Dichelostemma capitatum (Blue Dicks); Photo by Kathy Korbholz

Scientific Name: Dichelostemma capitatum (pronounced dye-kuh-LAW-stem-muh kap-ih-TAY-tum) ssp. capitatum. Dichelostemma comes from the Greek and means two-part clawlike structures that form a crown shape. This crown is generally hidden in the throat of the flower tube.

Family Name: The genus Dichelostemma was previously included in the family Liliaceae. It is now in the family Themidaceae, informally called the Brodiaea family.

Description: Its two or three grasslike leaves sprout in the springtime from a fibrous bulb (a corm). A flower stalk soon grows upward, reaching sometimes two feet tall. At the top of the stalk there is a tight cluster of violet-blue flowers, varying sometimes from deep violet to white.  For more, see Jepson’s eFlora description.

Uses:   The corms of blue dicks are eaten by many animals, including mule deer and pocket gophers. These corms were also an important food starch for Native Americans, who managed fields of blue dicks, along with other bulbs and corms.  Natives are said to have used the bulbs raw, fried, broiled, or roasted.

Notes: The first designation as Dichelostemma capitatum was made in 1868. Prior to that time, in 1857, it was named Brodiaea capitata. In some books you will find Blue Dicks is given the scientific name Brodiaea pulchella. It is now generally accepted that the Brodiaea group of plants is split into three genera: Dichelostemma. Triteleia, and Brodiaea. All of these genera occur at Edgewood.

Finding it at Edgewood:  Blue Dicks blooms on Edgewood grasslands and in open woodlands from March to May.  It is widespread at Edgewood, and can be found along the Sylvan Trail, the Serpentine and Ridgeview Loops, and on the Live Oak, Clarkia, and Edgewood Trails.  See distribution map below.

Blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum) distribution at Edgewood
Dichelostemma capitatum distribution at Edgewood

Edgewood photos
Jepson Flora Project

“Common Native Wildflowers of Edgewood Preserve,” published by the Friends of Edgewood Natural Preserve.
Corelli, T. Flowering Plants of Edgewood Natural Preserve. Half Moon Bay, CA: Monocot Press, 2004.

Information compiled by Bob Young, Sandra Bernhard and Anna Lee