What is Dichelostemma?

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  • Written By: Todd M.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Dichelostemma is a genus of flowering plants that belong to the Themidaceae family. There are seven recognized species of the Dichelostemma genus, all of which are native to the western region of the United States. All species of this genus can be identified by their perennial corns, or small bulbs, that produce a central stem for a bell-shaped flower with a deeply toothed stamen. There are three species of this genus that are particularly common, including blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitalum), firecracker flower (Dichelostemma ida-maia) and ookow (Dichelostema congestum).

Blue dicks is a species of Dichelostemma that is commonly found in northern Mexico, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and California. Also known as purplehead or brodiaea, this perennial herb reaches a height of 2 feet (about 60 centimeters) when it reaches maturity. The plant blooms in a dense umbel, or umbrella-like, cluster of around ten blue or purple flowers. Each flower has the deeply notched stamens that are characteristic of the Dichelostemma genus. Blue dicks were used by various Native American tribes for their highly nutritious underground corns.


Firecracker flower plants are typically found along the borders of forests and coastal grasslands along the West Coast of the United States. This species is named after its long tubular flowers that are colored bright red with a jagged stamen that resembles a firecracker wick. A healthy firecracker flower can easily produce clusters of 20 to 25 individual flowers. The long, thin flowers of this plant are pollinated by hummingbirds and are long-lasting.

The ookow plant is native to the Pacific Coast of the United States where it can be found growing from Washington through central California. This plant produces a flowering stem that can reach a height of up to 3 feet (about 1 meter) at maturity. The flowers of an ookow are joined together at the stem of the plant, making this plant instantly distinguishable from other species of Dichelostemma when it is in bloom.

These species of Dichelostemmas are occasionally propagated by gathering seeds or dividing corns for use in wild home gardens. Dichelostemmas prefer a shady area that is well-drained and contains plenty of fresh organic matter in the soil. These plants are able to establish themselves quickly on their own with a minimal amount of care. The soil surrounding the plant should be allowed to go completely dry when it has entered dormancy for the summer and watered regularly during the growing season.


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