NATIVE – CA ENDEMIC
- Monocots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
- Lily Family (Liliaceae)
- Perennial herb
- Grows from a bulb (short underground stem with fleshy leaves, e.g. onion)
- Basal and alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
- Linear to ovate (egg-shaped)
- Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a raceme (unbranched stem with stalked flowers opening from the bottom up)
- 1 to several white, nodding, bell-shaped flowers, with green veins
- 3 petals and 3 sepals (outer flower parts), in 2 separate whorls, similar in appearance and collectively called tepals
- Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
- Fruit is a 6-angled, upright capsule (a dry, multi-chambered fruit that splits open at maturity) with many seeds
- Height to 14 in.
- Native and endemic (limited) to California
- Grows in hilly grasslands with heavy clay 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
- California Rare Plant Rank: 1B.2 (rare, threatened, or endangered in California and elsewhere)
- Grows at elevations to 700 ft.
Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)
- Mammals eat the bulbs
- Deer appear to favor the flowers as blooms often quickly disappear
- Frequented by bees and beetles
- Native people ate the bulbs boiled, steamed, roasted, or baked in earthen ovens (Anderson 2005)
- See Lily family for more details about how Native people actively managed edible geophytes
- CAUTION – some Fritillaria species are toxic
- Fritillaria (fri-til-AIR-ee-a) – from the Latin fritillus, “a dicebox,” possibly referring to the shape of the seedpod or the patterned flowers
- For information about ancient dice boxes/cups, including images, see Thayer 2019
- liliace (lil-ee-AY-see-ee) – “lily-like,” from the Greek lirion, “lily”
- Fragrant fritillary – some sources indicate flowers are sweet-scented, while others state no or faint scent
- 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
- Many of California’s Fritillaria species are of limited distribution and are declining in numbers due to habitat loss and horticultural collecting (Himes 1997)
- Has a distinctive flower, but when not in bloom, its vegetation is similar to many monocots found at Edgewood
- Found in serpentine grasslands
- No iNaturalist observations are documented because locations of rare species are obscured
- Flowers February – April
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.
Anderson, M.K. 2005. Tending the Wild. University of California, Berkeley.
Himes, K. 1997, Mar. Edgewood’s Two Fritillaria, Harbingers of Spring. Edgewood Explorer.
Safford, H.D. 2010, Oct. & 2011, Jan. Serpentine Endemism of the California Flora. Fremontia, vol. 38:4/39: 32-39.
Safford, H.D. and Miller, J.E.D. 2020. An Updated Database of Serpentine Endemism in the California Flora. Madroño, 67: 85-104.
Thayer, B. 2019. Fritillus. LacusCurtius: Into the Roman World.