Common Muilla

Common Muilla © DSchiel

Sea Muilla
Muilla maritima

Description (Jepson,

    • Monocotyledon
      • Monocots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
    • Brodiaea Family (Themidaceae)
    • Perennial herb
      • Grows from a corm (short, solid, vertical underground stem)
    • Leaves
      • 3-10 grasslike, linear, basal leaves
      • May wither before the plant blooms
    • Flowers
      • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is an umbel (a spoke-like flower cluster with stalks radiating from a single point) at the end of a leafless stalk (scape), with individual flower stalks (pedicels) up to 2 in. long
        • Greenish white, star-shaped flowers with brownish colored midveins
        • Fused bracts (modified leaves at flower base) become 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
      • 6 prominent stamens (male flower parts) may be green, blue or purple
      • Ovary superior (attached above other flower parts)
    • Fruit is a capsule (a dry multi-chambered pod that splits open)
    • Height to 6 in.
    Flower © DSchiel


      • Native to California
        • Grows in grasslands, woodlands, and coastal scrub in alkaline, granitic, or serpentine soils
        • 50-54% of plants occur on serpentine (ultramafic) soils; see ultramafic affinity rankings (Calfora per Safford and Miller 2020)
        • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
      • Outside California, grows in Baja California, Mexico
      • Grows at elevations to 7,500 ft.

      Uses (Picking or removing any natural material from public land is illegal)

        • Insects, including beetles, seek the nectar

        Name Derivation

          • Muilla (moo-IL-a) – from the word “allium” spelled backwards, a humorous anagram referring to the plant’s superficial resemblance to onions, in the genus Allium
          • maritima (mar-IT-i-ma) – from the Latin for “coast”


            • 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 included in the Lily family

            ID Tips

              • Although “muilla” is “allium” spelled backwards, implying the plant is onion-like, Muilla leaves do not smell like onion/garlic

              At Edgewood

                • Found in grasslands
                • Flowers March – April

                See General References

                Specific References

                  Alexander, E.B. 2010, Oct. & 2011, Jan. Serpentine Soils and Why They Limit Plant Survival and Growth. Fremontia, vol. 38:4/39:1, pp. 28-31.

                    Safford, H.D. 2010, Oct. & 2011, Jan. Serpentine Endemism of the California Flora. Fremontia, vol. 38:4/39:1, pp. 32-39.

                      Safford, H.D. and Miller, J.E.D. 2020. An Updated Database of Serpentine Endemism in the California Flora. [Manuscript accepted by] Madrono, California Botanical Society, Northridge, California.