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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 26 | Liliaceae

69. Triteleia Douglas ex Lindley, Edwards’s Bot. Reg. 15: under plate 1293. 1830.

Triteleia, triplet-lily [Greek tri, three, and teleios, perfect, alluding to all flower parts in threes]

J. Chris Pires

Brodiaea Smith sect. Calliprora (Lindley) S. Watson; B. subg. Calliprora (Lindley) Eastwood; B. subg. Hesperoscordum (Lindley) Eastwood; B. sect. Seubertia (Kunth) S. Watson; B. subg. Triteleia (Douglas ex Lindley) Eastwood; Calliprora Lindley; Hesperoscordum Lindley; Seubertia Kunth

Herbs, perennial, scapose, from fibrous-coated corms. Leaves 1–3, basal; blade narrowly lanceolate (linear in Triteleia ixioides), keeled, channeled, glabrous, margins entire. Scape erect, cylindrical, 1–5 mm diam., rigid. Inflorescences umbellate, open, bracteate; bracts green (purplish in T. lemmoniae), ± lanceolate, scarious. Flowers: perianth 6-tepaled, connate proximally into tube of varying length and shape, usually funnelform, lobes similar, usually ascending to spreading; stamens 6, epitepalous; filaments distinct, adnate to perianth tube in 1 or 2 rows, equal or of 2 unequal lengths, free portions flattened, sometimes dilated at base to form triangle, apical appendages usually absent, when present sometimes forming a crown; anthers versatile, usually curving away from stigma; pistil 3-carpellate; ovary superior, green or colored like perianth (yellow in T. peduncularis, white in T. clementina), stipitate, 3-locular, ovules anatropous, 2–several per locule; style 2–4 mm; stigma weakly 3-lobed; pedicel ± erect, often articulate, usually longer than perianth (shorter in T. crocea). Fruits capsular, ovoid, dehiscence loculicidal. Seeds black, ridged on 1 side, subglobose, rounded, coarsely and irregularly pitted, minutely granulate or granulate-reticulate, coat with crust. x = 7, 8.

Species 15 (14 in the flora): w North America, n Mexico.

For discussion of relationships, see under Brodiaea.

Molecular evidence (J. C. Pires 2000) suggests the artificiality of the subgenera and sections that have been recognized within Triteleia, consistent with R. F. Hoover (1941), who recognized sections for reasons of convenience only. Thus, those infrageneric taxa are not utilized here. Several species of Triteleia are exceedingly variable, and polyploidy is common: multiples of both x = 7 and x = 8 occur, suggesting that chromosomal changes have played a significant evolutionary role within the genus (M. P. Burbanck 1941).

Triteleia is widely distributed west of the Rocky Mountains, but its greatest diversity is in the “Klamath area” of northwestern California and southern Oregon. The corms of some species were eaten by native Americans.

Among the most important diagnostic characters within Triteleia are features of the androecium, particularly stamen height and insertion relative to the perianth, and the presence of apical filament appendages. These characters are easily seen in the field with a hand lens. When collecting flowering specimens, one should make a point of mounting a few dissected flowers in a manner that displays these critical characters.

The only Triteleia species that does not occur in the flora, T. guadalupensis L. W. Lenz, is endemic to Guadalupe Island off Baja California.


Hoover, R. F. 1941. A systematic study of Triteleia. Amer. Midl. Naturalist 25: 73–100. Lenz, L. W. 1975. A biosystematic study of Triteleia (Liliaceae): 1. Revision of the species of section Calliprora. Aliso 8: 221–258. Lenz, L. W. 1976b. A biosystematic study of Triteleia (Liliaceae): 2. Chromosome numbers and karyotypes of the species of section Calliprora. Aliso 8: 353–377.

1 Stamens attached alternately at 2 levels on perianth tube, forming 2 rows of 3.   (2)
+ Stamens all attached at same level at throat of perianth tube.   (6)
2 (1) Perianth tube obtuse and rounded at base; ovary twice as long as stipe.   5 Triteleia grandiflora
+ Perianth tube acute or attenuate at base; ovary shorter than or equal to stipe (slightly longer than stipe in T. crocea).   (3)
3 (2) Stamens unequal, alternately long and short.   (4)
+ Stamens equal in length or nearly so.   (5)
4 (3) Pedicel 0.7–2 cm; perianth 12–19 mm, bright yellow or pale blue; ovary green.   3 Triteleia crocea
+ Pedicel 2–10(–18) cm; perianth 15–28 mm, white, often flushed violet or lilac abaxially; ovary bright yellow.   14 Triteleia peduncularis
5 (3) Perianth 16–27 mm, lavender; anthers purple, 1.5 mm; endemic to San Clemente Island.   2 Triteleia clementina
+ Perianth 18–47 mm, pale blue, sometimes deep bluish purple or white; anthers white to bluish, 2–5 mm; widespread in California.   9 Triteleia laxa
6 (1) Stamens unequal, alternately long and short.   (7)
+ Stamens equal in length or nearly so.   (9)
7 (6) Longer filaments rounded apically.   12 Triteleia lugens
+ Longer filaments not rounded apically.   (8)
8 (7) Apical filament appendages short, blunt, or absent; perianth tube ca. equal to lobes.   4 Triteleia dudleyi
+ Apical filament appendages pointed, conspicuous; perianth tube much shorter than or equal to lobes.   8 Triteleia ixioides
9 (6) Perianth 27–45 mm, tube strongly attenuate, lobes shorter than tube.   1 Triteleia bridgesii
+ Perianth 7–23 mm, tube turbinate, bowl-shaped, or funnelform and moderately attenuate at base, lobes 2–3 times longer than tube.   (10)
10 (9) Perianth tube funnelform, attenuate at base, lobes ca. twice as long as tube.   (11)
+ Perianth tube turbinate or shallowly bowl-shaped, lobes 2–3 times longer than tube.   (12)
11 (10) Perianth 12–17 mm; filaments more than 1/2 as long as perianth lobes.   13 Triteleia montana
+ Perianth 18–26 mm; filaments less than 1/2 as long as perianth lobes.   6 Triteleia hendersonii
12 (10) Perianth bright yellow to deep orange, turbinate; Arizona.   11 Triteleia lemmoniae
+ Perianth white, blue, or lilac, shallowly bowl-shaped; not in Arizona.   (13)
13 (12) Filaments usually triangular-dilated, hyaline vesicles absent from perianth tube; usually moist soils, widespread.   7 Triteleia hyacinthina
+ Filaments always linear, hyaline vesicles present in perianth tube; dry rocky outcrops, volcanic hills and mesas of n California.   10 Triteleia lilacina

  • List of lower taxa


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