Liliaceae: Lily Family — Calochortus (Mariposa Lilies)

Fairy Lantern / White Globe Lily  – Calochortus albus

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

20–80 cm

Flower Size:

Medium

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Shaded slopes and open woods

Notes:

Very common and unmistakable.  The pendulous flowers have three delicate, hair-fringed, creamy-white petals (occasionally pinkish), each with a protruding hump where the nectar gland is inside the flower.  The 3-sided seeds pods are distinctive and surprisingly large.  The location of the plants can be identified early in the season by the single, strap-like leaf lying prostrate on the ground.  Photo #1 by CJH.

Fairy Lantern

Plain Mariposa Lily – Calochortus invenustus

Blooms:

May–Aug

Plant Height:

20–50 cm

Flower Size:

Large

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry soil, mostly granitic, generally in pine forests

Notes:

Unmistakably a mariposa lily with its bell-shaped flower, upright with three large petals and long, slender sepals.  Flowers are white to pale lilac, very similar to Splendid Mariposa Lily (Calochortus splendens, see below).  However, this is easily distinguished by 1) its sepals (which are appressed to the petals rather than recurved), and 2) the short hairs forming a fringed membrane around the sunken nectar glands at the base of the petals.

Yellow Mariposa Lily – Calochortus luteus

Blooms:

May–June

Plant Height:

20–50 cm

Flower Size:

Large

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open grassland and slopes

Notes:

This beautiful mariposa lily has intense lemon-yellow flowers, marked with red-brown lines and/or blotches in the mid area of the petals.  There are dense matted short yellow/orange hairs on the nectaries near the base of the petals.  Mostly found on and around the Monterey Peninsula, away from the immediate coast.

Splendid Mariposa Lily – Calochortus splendens

Blooms:

May–July

Plant Height:

20–60 cm

Flower Size:

Large

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry soils, often granitic, grassland and chaparral

Notes:

Unmistakably a mariposa lily with its bell-shaped flower, upright with three large petals and long, slender sepals.  Flowers are uniformly lilac, occasionally purple-spotted near the base, very similar to Plain Mariposa Lily (Calochortus invenustus, see above).  But this is easily distinguished by 1) its sepals, which are typically reflexed (rather than appressed to the petals), and by 2) the inside of the petals, which are densely long-hairy, with nectaries that are not sunken (rather than having a fringed membrane around sunken nectar glands).

Large-flowered Star Tulip – Calochortus uniflorus

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

10–40 cm

Flower Size:

Large

Origin:

Native

Rare or endangered?

Yes – 4.2

Habitat:

Low wet meadows

Notes:

Despite its common name, this is also a mariposa lily, found in coastal areas, mainly on the Monterey Peninsula.  The flower is white to lilac, with fine hairs.  It may have purple blotches surrounding the nectar glands, which are covered by a broad fringed membrane.  Each stem bears a single flower (hence “uniflorus”), but there may be as many as 5 stems arising out of a single bulblet, blooming in succession.  Photos #1 and 4 by CJH.

Star Tulip, Large-flowered
Star Tulip, Large-flowered

Butterfly Mariposa Lily – Calochortus venustus

Blooms:

May–July

Plant Height:

20–60 cm

Flower Size:

Large

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Light sandy soil, inland

Notes:

This is exceptionally beautiful even by mariposa lily standards.  Extremely variable in its coloration (white, yellow, pink, purple or even dark red), but most commonly white with pinkish markings.  Petals have a large red blotch near the base, with a second paler blotch above.  Petals are sparsely hairy near their base. The nectary is more or less square, with short yellow hairs.  Photo #4 by CJH.

Mariposa Lily, Butterfly