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 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 (above the attachment of 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 ultramafic soils, e.g. serpentine; see ultramafic affinity rankings (Calflora per Safford and Miller 2020)
    • See Serpentine Grassland for more about Edgewood’s serpentine soil and the unique communities it supports
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Outside California, grows in Baja California, Mexico
  • Grows at elevations to 7,500 ft.

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

  • Wildlife
    • 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, 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 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
  • Check out this CNPS video with Rupert Clayton, Triplet Lilies, Ookows, and Blue Dicks, for more ID tips

At Edgewood

  • Found in serpentine and non-serpentine 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 38/39: 28-31.

Safford, H.D. 2010, Oct. & 2011, Jan. Serpentine endemism of the California flora. Fremontia 38/39: 32-39.

Safford, H.D. and J.E.D. Miller. 2020. An updated database of serpentine endemism in the California flora. Madroño 67(2): 85-104. BioOne Complete. PDF hosted by San Diego State University, San Diego, California.