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What is Brodiaea?

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  • Written By: Vasanth S.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Brodiaea is a plant genus that is part of the Liliaceae family. It contains about 14 species of perennial herbs that are native to the western part of North America. These plants feature flowering stalks that rise above grass-like mounds of leaves. Landscapers use these plants in flower beds or borders. The plants in the Brodiaea genus are generally easy to maintain, and they may be propagated by seed or division.

This group of plants is named after the Scottish botanist James Brodie, who lived from 1744 to 1824. Most of the plants in the Brodiaea genus are commonly known by other names. For example, B. elegans is called harvest brodiaea or elegant cluster-lily. B. californica is simply called the California brodiaea, while B. coronaria is known as the crown brodiaea.

These plants are located in the western United States, western Canada, and the Baja of California. B. elegans and B. californica populate the open and wooded plains of California and Oregon. B. coronaria extends from British Columbia down to California.

The elegant cluster-lily is a commonly cultivated plant that grows about 3 feet (1 m) in height. The foliage consists of narrow leaves that are 4-16 inches (10-40 cm) long. It typically grows in late winter or early spring and usually browns by the time the flower buds are large. The flowering stem is as long as the leaves, but is erect, while the leaves droop.

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Generally, the flowers of the elegant cluster-lily are bluish-purple or violet and shaped like funnels. The California brodiaea has white, pinkish-white, or lavender flowers. Typically, the flowers are arranged in umbels, which feature several flower stalks of equal length that originate from the same point on the stem.

To successfully grow this plant, it should be planted in an area of the garden or landscape that is partially shaded from the sun. The soil should be dry to moist and have a heavy consistency. This plant should be grown next to plants of similar height to support the flowering stalks, since they tend to flap around in the wind.

The elegant cluster-lily can be propagated through seeds or division. From seeds, it usually takes 2-3 years before the flowers bloom. Propagation through division requires the excavation and cutting of the corm. A corm is an underground stem that stores water and nutrients. It usually serves as a reserve supply of sustenance during the winter or during droughts.

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