Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Liliaceae is a large family, with hundreds of exotic species in cultivation. They include hyacinths, tulips, onions, as well as the true lilies. This family is well represented in the Bay Area natives, many of which have become native garden favorites.

All species are prerennial, but most are herbaceous (not having a woody stem) and die back, after flowering or fruiting, to underground bulbs, corms, or rhizomes. New plants form from bulb division or sprout from seeds, but usually do not begin flowering until about the fourth year, after the bulb has developed sufficiently.

The flowers have 3 petals and 3 sepals, often very similar (in which they are referred to as perianth segments: you needed to know that, I'm sure.) There are typically 6 stamens. The fruit is either dry and cracking at maturity or fleshy in certain species - it is divided into 3 segments. There are few exceptions to the above general description.

 Many native members of Liliaceae can be grown in the garden, keeping in mind their native situations: Allium, Brodiaea, Camassia, Lilium and Calochortus species prefer to grow in open, sunny areas; Trillium, Erythronium, Smilacine, and Maianthemum prefer shaded habitats, and require more moisture over a longer growing period. On Montara Mountain, Liliaceae representatives include:

Allium dichlamydeum
Coast Onion

Allium triquetrum
Welsh Onion

Calochortus albus
White Globe Lily

Chlorogalum pomeridianum
Soap Plant

Dichelostemma capitatum
Blue Dicks

Dichelostemma congestum
Forked-Toothed Ookaw

Fritillaria affinis
Mission Bells
(Checker Lily)

Scoliopus bigelovii
Fetid Adder's Tongue

Smilacine racemosa
var amplexicaulis
Fat Solomon's Seal

Smilacine stellata
var sessilifolia
Slim Solomon's Seal

Trillium albidum
Sweet Trillium

Trillium chloropetalum
Giant Trillium

Trillium ovatum
Coast Trillium

Triteleia laxa
Ithuriel's Spear

Zigadenus fremontii
Star Lily



Allium dichlamydeum:
Coast Onion

Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Flowers: Pink to Rose colored, 3 petals & 3 identical sepals, multiple flowers in an umbel on a single stem.

Blooms: April - June

Leaves: 3 - 6 lance-like flat leaves from base, most obvious when plant first sprouts - may be dried back when flower head is mature.

Fruit/Seeds: 3 segmented green fruit that braeks into 3 dark seeds.

Location: Open areas on cliffs above coast.

Status: Native - Common.

Allium dichlamydeum

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Further description & Comment: 4 - 12 inches tall, usually growing in colonies of separate plants, one stem per plant, each with a separate root. The stems are green-brown, and the plant omits an onion smell when crushed.

Although it is in the Allium. genus, the plant is an annual that reproduces from seed and does not have an onion-like bulb at the root.



Allium triquetrum:
Welsh Onion

Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Flowers: White, multiple nodding flowers at top of stem, 3 petals and 3 sepals each.

Blooms: January - May.

Leaves: Flat, long and linear, from base of plant; with pronounced keel (linear ridge) on underside.

Fruit/Seeds: Several black seeds in a rounded pod, mid-summer.

Location: Disturbed areas with loose soil, grassy areas, lawns, road medians, etc.

Status: Alien - Invasive.

Allium triquetrum

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Further description & Comment: 12 to 16 inches tall. Hollow stems, strong onion smell when crushed or cut. Small white bulb at root base.

All parts of this plant are edible, and may be used as one would use commercial green onion or pearl onions. They are stronger tasting, so don't go overboard in the salad unless you really like onion.

Mediterranean in origin, this is a well-known lawn infester throughout the coastside, and has been spreading up into the parks. Because it spreads by both seed and bulb offsets, it can be difficult to eradicate from an area once it has been established. I've given up trying to get it out of the backyard.



Calochortus albus :
White Globe Lily

Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Flowers: White, tinged with pink and translucent, three petals, one inch in diameter, globe shapped; hanging from stems.

Blooms: April - June.

Leaves: Long and narrow from base of stem, smaller ones from base of flower stem.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: Rocky outcrops and shady thickets.

Status: Native - Not-So-Common.

Calochortus albus
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Photo by Mike Vasey.

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Further description & Comment: 1 - 2 ft tall.

Often found down in the undergrowth, this is one of the most striking flowers on the mountain. The plant at left I only noticed because I stopped to tie my shoe during a walk up to the peaks.

San Pedro Mtn. Road, on the Pacifica side between Shamrock Ranch and the saddle, is another good area to find White Globe Lilies in the spring.


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