The life cycle of the widespread, cormous geophyte, Triteleia ixioides (W. T. Aiton) Greene subsp. anilina (Greene) L. W. Lenz (Themidaceae) was studied in the field over several years in coniferous forest sites in Butte County, CA. All sites, ranging from 1383 to 1774 meters in elevation, have a Mediterranean climate and loamy soils above Tuscan mudflow substrate. Flowering scape height, corm weight, and corm depth varied significantly. Old corms decreased in dry weight throughout the winter, as shoots, roots, and new corms grew. By spring, each old corm had produced a leaf and a flowering scape, was depleted of stored food, and had a new “replacement corm” (without roots) already developed on top of it. Fruit set varied from 38.5% to 89.1%, with significant differences among populations sampled in different years and sites. Seed set was low (overall mean 38.4%), but varied significantly among years and sites, ranging from 26.4% to 56.3%. Plants are partially self-compatible. Soil moisture was not limiting to seed set, nor was pollen vectors, except on cold days. The most important pollinator was a bee fly (Bombylius facialis, Bombyliidae), although native bees provided some pollination at higher sites. Ten-minute observation periods, during bee fly activity, showed up to 15 visits to plants in a square meter. Percent seed germination was high (88–100%), with germination after the first rains and seedling growth continuing during the cold months. Seedlings produced single leaves up to 60.4 mm long, and corms averaged 1.6 ± 0.1 mm wide at one site. Contractile roots, produced lateral to the primary roots, averaged 16.13 ± 1.00 cm long. Shrinking and wrinkling at the upper part of the contractile root pulled the newly formed corm deeper in the soil. Study of contractile roots in Triteleia and other geophytes may help illustrate adaptation to summer drought in Mediterranean California.
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Vol. 61 • No. 1