The Sonoran Desert Florilegium

plants of the florilegium

Dichelostemma capitatum

FAMILY:  Liliaceae — Lily family

SYNONYM:  Dichelostemma pulchellum

OTHER COMMON NAMES:  Wild hyacinth, Brodiaea

ETYMOLOGY:  The name of the genus Dichelostemma is formed from two Greek words, dicha, meaning 'bifid', or 'cleft', and stemma, meaning 'crown'. This refers to the notched, petal-like appendages attached to the stamens, which, when clustered together, resemble a crown.

The specific epithet capitatum is from the Latin word for 'head', caput, and describes the head-like appearance of the flowers that form the umbel.

DESCRIPTION:  The flower color of blue dicks, a spring perennial, ranges from deep blue to violet to lavender. Characteristic of each of the six petals is a dark midvein. The bottoms of the petals are fused into a short tube, and the tops flare open forming a bell shape. Flowers grow in clusters, each on a pedicel (a short branch) at the top of a leafless stem. The pedicels grow from the top of the stem rising like ribs of an umbrella in a form known as an umbel. At the base of the umbel are thin pale purple modified leaves called bracts. The stem and leaves emerge from a small bulb that has overwintered in the ground. The few dark green grass-like leaves begin to grow in late winter and start to wither as flowering begins in spring. This long-stemmed flower can reach a height of two feet.

Blue dicks are found on open rocky slopes. In times past, indigenous people and settlers in the U.S. and Mexico used the bulb as food. Today, the Arizona native plant law prohibits collection of the bulb.