Itherial’s Spear or Wally Basket
Common name: Itherial’s Spear or Wally Basket
Scientific name: Triteleia laxa
Family: Liliaceae (lily)
Size: plant 1 to 1.5 feet tall; flower 3 to 4 cm across
Fun facts: Flowers have blue pollen which is an unusual color for pollen.
Description: Member of the lily family. Each flower has three petals and three sepals. In Triteleia the sepals are colored like the petals, so that the flower appears to have six petals and no sepals. Wally-basket has blue to dark purple flowers.
You use the following characteristics to distinguish Triteleia from the similar Brodiaea and Dichelostemma flowers: Brodiaea have three stamens and three stamenoides. Dichelostemma have three true stamens and three stamenoides which have reduced stamens at their tips. The Triteleia have six true stamens and no stamenoides.
Life cycle: Itherial’s Spear is a bulb producing perennial. Early in the season, the plants produce one or a few grass-like leaves. By the time the flowers are ready to bloom, the leaves have dried up and the flowers bloom in umbels (clusters) on a tall leafless stem. Only older plants with well developed bulbs have enough stored energy to produce flowers in April.
Ecology: Triteleia bulbs are an important food source for burrowing rodents such as Botta’s Pocket Gophers. The bulbs have a nutty flavor and Native Americans ate them as well.
Investigate: Large and showy flowers are a good indicator that Triteleia are insect pollinated. Observe the insects which visit the flowers.