Blue Dicks

Blue Dicks © DSchiel

Wild Hyacinth
Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus

Description (Jepson,

  • Monocotyledon
    • Monocots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Brodiaea Family (Themidaceae)
    • Only species in its genus
  • Perennial herb
    • Grows from a corm (short, solid, vertical, underground stem) with a fibrous outer coat, surrounded by immature cormlets
  • Leaves
    • 2-3 basal leaves
    • Straplike, linear to narrowly lanceolate
    • Generally with a prominent longitudinal fold (keeled)
    • May wither before the plant blooms
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a dense, headlike umbel (a spoke-like flower cluster with stalks radiating from a single point) at the end of a long, leafless stalk (scape)
      • 2-16 bluish to pinkish purple, occasionally white, trumpet-shaped flowers
      • 2-4 purple, fused bracts (modified leaves) at base become pale and papery with age
    • Individual flowers have 3 petals and 3 sepals (outer flower parts), in 2 separate whorls, similar in appearance and collectively called tepals, fused into a tube with spreading tips
    • 6 stamens (male flower parts), in 2 alternating sets of 3 outer, short and 3 inner, long stamens
      • 3 broad, white, winged appendages (filament sheaths) back the 3 inner stamens, creating a crown-like tube (corona) surrounding the anthers (pollen-producing parts)
    • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is a capsule (a dry multi-chambered pod that splits open) with 3 chambers
  • Height to 20 in.
Fruits © DSchiel


  • Native to California
    • Grows in grasslands, scrub, and open areas in woodlands, on many different soils, including serpentine
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Outside California, grows in Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico
  • Grows at elevations to 5,200 ft.

Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)

  • Wildlife
    • Nectar source for hummingbirds and butterflies, e.g. Sara orange-tip (Anthocharis sara), Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus), umber skipper (Poanes melane)
    • Mammals, from bears and deer to gophers and voles, seek the corms for food
      • Incidental disturbance helps aerate soil and disperse cormlets
  • Native people
    • Ate the corms boiled, steamed, roasted, or baked in earthen ovens (Anderson 2005)
      • Blue dick corms were a significant source of starch for California’s Native people, who harvested them in large quantities across half the state (Anderson and Roberts 2006)
    • See Brodiaea family for more details about how Native people actively managed edible geophytes

Name Derivation

  • Dipterostemon (dip-ter-oh-STE-mon) – from the Greek di-, “two,” ptero, “wings” and stemon, “stamen,” referring to the winged appendages of the 3 inner stamens
  • capitatus (kap-i-TAY-tus) – pertaining to the head-like cluster of flowers
  • Dicks – from an abbreviation of the previously designated genus, Dichelostemma (di-kel-o-STEM-ma)


  • Geophytes (e.g. plants growing from bulbs, corms, rhizomes, or enlarged taproots) are well adapted to survive fire, our Mediterranean climate’s long, dry summers, and extended droughts
    • Above-ground growth dies back after flowering, while underground the plant survives with stored water and nutrients
  • Previously in the genus Dichelostemma; also previously in the Lily family
    • Now Dipterostemon based on molecular data
      • The Jepson key breaks on the number of stamens: Dipterostemon has 6, where Dichelostemma has 3
    • Taxonomic confusion about the genus Dichelostemma has existed since the early 19th Century
      • The genus Dipterostemon was originally presented by a botanist in 1912
      • For an explanation of this plant’s taxonomic history and the effect of rivalry between botanists see Preston (2017)
  • Edgewood’s blue dicks is classified as a subspecies
    • Subspecies indicates a geographically-separated population with distinct morphological characteristics; when not isolated, interbreeding is possible
    • Variety indicates a population with small morphological variations, e.g. color, seen throughout the geographic range of the species; interbreeding is possible
    • In practice, botanists have not consistently applied these ranks

ID Tips

  • At Edgewood may be easily confused with Ookow (Dichelostemma congestum)
  • Check out this short video (Jepson 2020) or this longer video (Clayton 2022) for more ID tips
Blue DicksOokow
Pedicel1negligible (≤ 0.04 in.)

creates a tight, dense cluster
short (≤ 0.2 in.)

creates a slightly open, loose cluster
Bracts2generally dark purplepale purple to green
     Fused Tepalsbell-shaped

does not narrow at opening (no waist)

narrows at opening (waist)
Bloom TimeFebruary – MayApril – May
1 Pedicel: stalk of a single flower
2 Bracts: modified leaves at flower base
3 Stamen number cannot be checked without injuring the flower, so please take our word for it!
4 Corona: crown-like tissue between petals and stamens
5 Check a fresh flower: aged appendages may fade to light purple

At Edgewood

  • Found in chaparral, serpentine and non-serpentine grasslands, and woodlands
  • Flowers February – May

See General References

Specific References

Anderson, M.K. 2005. Tending the Wild. University of California, Berkeley.

Anderson, M.K. and W. Roberts. 2006. Bluedicks Dichelostemma capitatum (Benth.) Wood. Plant Guide. United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Plant Data Center c/o Plant Science Department, University of California, Davis, California.

Berg, R.Y. 1996. Development of ovule, embryo sac, and endosperm in Dipterostemon and Dichelostemma (Alliaceae) relative to taxonomy. American Journal of Botany 83: 790-801. Botanical Society of America.

Blackwell, L.R. 2012. Wildflowers of California – a Month by Month Guide. University of California Press, Berkeley, California.

Clayton, R. 2022, Apr. 1. Triplet lilies, ookows, and blue dicks: Tips for identifying Brodiaeoideae [Video]. Fire Followers Spring Training [Webinar]. California Native Plant Society. YouTube.

Jepson Herbarium. 2020, Oct. 1. Themidaceae (Brodiaea, Dichelostemma, Dipterostemon, and Triteleia) [Video]. The Jepson Videos: Visual Guide to the Plants of California. The Regents of the University of California. YouTube.

Mitchell, M. 2017. Themidaceae: Brodiaea family Blue dicks. Monterey County Wildflowers, Trees, and Ferns – A Photographic Guide.

Preston, R.E. 2017, Feb. New nomenclatural combinations for blue dicks (Dipterostemon capitatus; Asparagaceae: Brodiaeoideae). Phytoneuron 2017: 1-11. ResearchGate.

Shapiro, A.M. and T.D. Manolis. 2007. Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.

Young, B. 1997, Dec. A closer look at the flower blue dicks. Edgewood Explorer.