Harvest Brodiaea Seeds (Brodiaea coronaria)
We know a spot...a mowed, grassy parking lot, of thin, sandy, compacted soil. It’s a place where saltwater from the close-by beach saturates the root zone, and the sun bakes the ground in the summer, and relentless wind from the Strait of Juan de Fuca whips by constantly.
Every year in mid-summer, the Brodiaea coronaria blooms in this spot. Usually the flowers don’t last for more than a day, as they quickly flatten under the car tires of beach visitors, driving big white Chevy Suburbans, various minivans shuttling sandal-wearing kids, trucks with American flags, and old green Suburu Outbacks with stickers on the back.
As far as we’ve ever seen, the magic of this plant underfoot is overlooked by the beachgoers stepping from their vehicles. It’s understandable, there’s but a small single flower on each plant, often rising no more than 6 inches off the ground. We all overlook the miracles of everyday life.
How long has the Brodiaea been in this spot? Vehicles of various sorts have been parking and driving on this patch of ground since at least the 1940s. Navel facilities have been built up and torn down. Rusted junk, lug nuts, old threaded rods, and decrepit chunks of concrete, stage watch over the place. This odd “meadow” must be at least two centuries old.
Occasionally, we “rescue” a plant from the spot, digging up one that is especially aggrieved by trampling and vehicle tires. Doing this is akin to digging something out of dried cement. The decades of compaction make the soil virtually impenetrable. Yet the Brodiaea can generally manage to send up a flower, an electric-pink or electro-purple affair that stands out against the newly dormant brown grass of summer. It’s a kind of folk tale come to life when you stoop down to look at a patch of them.
All of this speaks to the fact that “harvest brodiaea” can grow almost anywhere. It probably thrives in places like this, not because it loves difficult conditions, but because it faces less competition from taller vegetation. Like camas and checker lily (companions it sometimes grows with), long-ago-people dug up and ate the bulbs. Each plant only produces a few seeds. And, it is one of the last meadow bulbs to flower every year.
It’s a slow going, and challenging process to grow this plant from seed. We set the seeds out in deep containers in late fall or winter. Allow the cold and rain to break- the dormancy, and await the tiny, single thin green stem that grows only a month or two in spring before dying back in the first year. It doesn’t always work. We’ve also had seed that sat in containers for two years outside before deciding to germinate. As they grow, they can be kept in containers for a few years, until they develop a true, small bulb, that can help ensure their survival when they are planted out into the ground. It’s a remarkable pattern of growth. It's a dreamy, and spell-binding kind of plant.
0.1 grams (Approximately 50 to 80 seeds)