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 surrounding the anthers (pollen-producing parts)
    • Ovary superior (attached above 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)

  • Mammals, from bears and deer to gophers and voles, seek the corms for food
    • Incidental disturbance helps aerate soil and disperse cormlets
  • Hummingbirds and butterflies, such as the Sara orange-tip (Anthocharis sara), Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus), and umber skipper (Poanes melane), seek the nectar
  • 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, and rhizomes, are 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)
  • From seed to flowering takes 2-3 years

ID Tips

  • At Edgewood may be easily confused with Ookow (Dichelostemma congestum)
  • Check out this short Jepson video for more ID tips
Blue DicksOokow
Pedicel (Flower Stalk)negligible (≤ 0.04 in.)

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

creates a slightly open, loose cluster
Bracts1generally dark purplepale purple to green
     Fused Tepalsbell-shaped

does not narrow at opening (no waist)

narrows at opening (waist)
     Winged Appendageswhite3purplish
Bloom TimeFebruary – MayApril – May
1 Bracts: modified leaves at flower base
2 Cannot be checked without destroying the flower, so please take our word for it!
3 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 Roberts, W. 2006. Plant Guide: Bluedicks (Dichelostemma capitatum (Benth.) Wood). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Plant Data Center. 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, 83:6, pp. 790-801.

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

            Mitchell, M. 2017. Blue Dicks. Monterey County Wildflowers, Trees & Ferns – a photographic guide.

              Preston, R.E. 2017, Feb. New nomenclatural combinations for blue dicks (Dipterostemon capitatus; Asparagaceae: Brodiaeoideae). Phytoneuron 2017(15):1-11.

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

                  Young, B. 1997, Dec. A Closer Look at the Flower Blue Dicks. Edgewood Explorer.