(Redirected from Mariposa lily)

Calochortus /ˌkæləˈkɔːrtəs, -l-/[3][4] is a genus of flowering plants in the lily family. The group includes herbaceous, perennial and bulbous species, all native to North America (primarily the Western United States).[5][6]

Sego lily cm.jpg
Sego Lily (Calochortus nuttallii)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Liliales
Family: Liliaceae
Subfamily: Calochortoideae
Genus: Calochortus
Type species
Calochortus elegans
  • Cyclobothra D.Don
  • Mariposa (Alph.Wood) Hoover

The genus Calochortus includes mariposas (or mariposa lilies) with open wedge-shaped petals, globe lilies and fairy lanterns with globe-shaped flowers, and cat's ears and star tulips with erect pointed petals. The word Calochortus is derived from Greek and means "beautiful grass".[5]


Calochortus produce one or more flowers on a stem that arises from the bulb, generally in the spring or early summer. Unlike most other Liliaceae, Calochortus petals differ in size and color from their sepals.[7] Flowers can be white, yellow, pink, purple, bluish, or streaked. The insides of the petals are often very 'hairy'. These hairs, along with the nectaries, are often used in distinguishing species from each other.[5]

Calochortus gunnisonii var. gunnisonii
Calochortus gunnisonii, Teller County, CO

Distribution and habitatEdit

The genus Calochortus includes approximately 70 species distributed from southwestern British Columbia, through California and Mexico, to northern Guatemala and eastwards to New Mexico, Nebraska and the Dakotas. Calochortus is the most widely dispersed genus of Liliaceae on the North American Pacific Coast.[7] Of these, 28 species are endemic to California.[12]

In 1998, T.B. Patterson conducted a phylogenetic analysis of the genus, dividing it into seven main clades. The study indicated highly localized speciation, so that different clades were strongly linked to specific habitats, as follows:[13]

  • Mariposas: dry grasslands, open chaparral, semideserts
  • Star-tulips: wet meadows
  • Cat's ears: montane woodlands
  • Fairy lanterns: oak woodlands, closed forests.



The bulbs of many species were eaten by Native Americans.[14] These bulbs were eaten raw or gathered in the fall and boiled, and the flower buds when young and fresh.[14] They were eaten by the Mormon settlers between 1853 and 1858 when famine threatened new immigrants in the Great Salt Lake Valley, due to crop failures.

Native Americans called Calochortus "sego". They used it as food, in ceremonies and as a traditional medicinal plant.[14]


Some Calochortus species are cultivated as ornamental plants by specialty nurseries and botanic gardens to sell.[15] The bulbs are planted for their flowers, in traditional, native plant, and wildlife gardens; in rock gardens; and in potted container gardens for those needing unwatered Summer dormancy.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Tropicos, Calochortus Pursh
  2. ^ a b Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  3. ^ "Calochortus". Unabridged. Random House. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  4. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  5. ^ a b c Flora of North America, Vol. 26 Page 119 Calochortus Pursh, Fl. Amer. Sept. 1: 240. 1814.
  6. ^ Pursh, Frederick Traugott. 1813. Flora Americae Septentrionalis; or, A systematic arrangement and description of the plants of North America. Containing, besides what have been described by preceding authors, many new and rare species, collected during twelve years travels and residence in that country 1: 240 in English and Latin
  7. ^ a b Dale, Nancy; Flowering Plants of the Santa Monica Mountains, Capra Press, 1986; pg. 28
  8. ^ Gerritsen, Mary E and Parsons, R. Calochortus. Mariposa Lilies and Their Relatives. Timber Press, 2007.
  9. ^ Biota of North America Program 2034 county distribution maps
  10. ^ Espejo Serena, A. & López-Ferrari, A.R. (1994). Las Monocotiledóneas Mexicanas una Sinopsis Florística 1(3): 1-74. Consejo Nacional de la Flora de México, México D.F..
  11. ^ Gerritsen, M.E. & Parsons, R. (2007). Calochortus: Mariposa lilies & their relatives: 1-232. Timber press, Inc. Portland, U.S.A.
  12. ^ USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Plant Profile for Calochortus Pursh; Data contributed by John K. Kartesz and USDA-NRCS National Plant Data Center
  13. ^ P. L. Fiedler & R. K. Zebell, Flora of North America; 18. Calochortus Pursh, Fl. Amer. Sept. 1: 240. 1814.
  14. ^ a b c "University of Michigan at Dearborn, Native American Ethnobotany: Calochortus". Archived from the original on 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2015-04-17.
  15. ^ Telos Rare Bulbs Nursery database: Calochortus


External linksEdit