Field Cluster Lily
Common name: Field Cluster Lily
Scientific name: Dichelostemma capitatum
Family: Liliaceae (lily)
Habitat: grasslands, woodlands
Size: plant up to 1 foot tall, flower 8 to 12 mm across in clusters
Fun facts: Field Cluster Lilies are one of the most common of California’s early spring wildflowers. They occur in many habitats.
Description: Member of the lily family. Each flower has three petals and three sepals. In Dichelostemma the sepals are colored like the petals so that the flower appears to have six petals and no sepals.
If you examine the Brodiaea species, you’ll find three white stamenoides which alternate with the stamens. Dichelostemma also have three white stamenoides, but each of these has a tiny reduced stamen at the tip that you can see with a hand lens.
Life cycle: Field Cluster Lily is a bulb-forming perennial. Plants produce one or two grass-like leaves early in the season. By the time the flowers are ready to bloom, the leaves have dried up and the flowers bloom in heads or tight clusters on a leafless stem. Only older plants with well developed bulbs have enough stored energy to produce flowers in May. It may take three to five years before the bulb is mature and the plant can flower.
Ecology: Field Cluster Lily bulbs are an important food source for burrowing rodents such as Pocket Gophers. The bulbs have a nutty flavor and Native Americans ate them as well.