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Mariposa Lily

Yellow Mariposa Lily
Yellow Mariposa Lily
Calochortus luteus
(photo by Robert Payne)
White Mariposa Lily White Mariposa Lily

Many of the 37 species of Calochortus found in California may be called Mariposa Lily, Mariposa Tulip, or even Butterfly Tulip. We get a white one (Calochortus supurbus) and a yellow one (Calochortus luteus). They mostly grow up by the substation where they bloom from April until June. Like all Lilies, they have 3 petals and 3 sepals that look like petals. The pretty ones are petals. The Mariposa Lilies are considered to be among the most beautiful bulb plants in the world. Some members of the genus are apparently very rare.
Mariposa is Spanish for butterfly. The markings inside the cup of the flower do indeed look like a butterfly. They also look like butterflies from the side. See for yourself. Mariposa Lilies were gathered in enormous numbers by Indians using a stout digging stick to pluck them from the ground. They were cooked in ovens before eating. They can be grown from seed, but it takes 3-5 years to get a corm.
I originally had the White Mariposa as Calochortus venustus. Then I got this note from David Hildebrand.
"I think the white Mariposa we have here is Calochortus supurbus, not venustus. The Superb Mariposa blooms a month earlier, has quite different glands at the petal base and likes low altitudes. The C. venustus seldom occurs below 1500' and grows in semi-shade forested areas, unlike the C. supurbus which prefers open grassland and serpentine soil. The C. luteus always grows in the sandy soils on the power station hill and never on serpentine. The C. supurbus is the opposite".

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