Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the May 29, 2005 Newsletter issued from the Sierra Nevada foothills somewhat east of Placerville, California, USA

Nowadays there's a strong feeling in the air that the hot dry season finally has arrived. Already grassy slopes are developing straw-colored blotches and I suspect that wildflower season is coming to a close. However, there's still a delightful spectrum of wildflowers blooming, a typical semi-open slope being nearly as floriferous as an Alpine meadow in August, and almost as pretty.

Lupines and clovers account for a lot of the gaudiness but here and there vivid outbreaks of other species occur. Along my jogging trail two fairly common ones are clearly members of the Lily Family -- six-lobed blossoms on slender stems (scapes), leaves arising from the base, the flowers' ovaries "superior." Though one of these Lily-Family members is bright yellow and the other is dark purple, their blossom structure is very similar, and older books refer to them both as Brodiaeas. Brodiaea is a genus in the Lily Family.

The Yellow one, Golden Brodiaea, is TRITELEIA IXIOIDES, its flowers bearing curious crown-like appendages behind each stamen, and each "petal" having a dark green midrib. Its picture can be seen here.

The purple one, variously called Wild Hyacinth, Forktooth Ookow, Blue Dicks, Congested Snakelily and other confusing names, is DICHELOSTEMMA CONGESTUM. You can see its densely clustered blossoms here.   

So, both of these species are sometimes known by the English name of Brodiaea, but neither now belongs to the genus Brodiaea. They used to be in that genus, but modern taxonomic thought has repositioned them.

Notice the domain names of the above two links -- pacificbulbsociety.org and californianativebulbs.com Out here an enormous amount of creative energy has been invested in gathering and presenting information on such civilized topics as gardening, nature study and environmental concerns.

How different from Mississippi where often I couldn't identify common wildflowers because of a lack of good fieldguides covering that area. On the other hand, back there I had the fun of being something of a pioneer naturalist, while here it seems every community is home to one or more very nature-savvy folks.