If you have only visited the front country trails you may think that there is only one mariposa lily which blooms for the Fourth of July. But in the back-country there is a far greater variety of these lilies and they start blooming in April. In fact, this past week.
A week ago there were no Mariposa Lilies blooming on the trails I traverse, and now there are four different species in bloom.
White fairy lantern
Catalina mariposa lily
Lilac Mariposa Lily
Butterfly Mariposa Lily
All four of these lilies are currently blooming in the back country (and none was last week).
The white fairy lantern is probably the most common of the four. In the last week I’ve seen it on Snyder Trail, Santa Cruz trail, and the road from lower to upper Oso. In the past I’ve seen them at the Painted Cave, on Camino Cielo, Arroyo Burro (back country road and trail), around Forbush, around the Grotto… It usually blooms into June.
The Catalina Mariposa lily is currently blooming on Santa Cruz trail and the road between the Osos. I’ve never seen it before so I don’t know how long it blooms.
There is one Lilac Mariposa lily blooming on the road between the Osos. Unfortunately it’s not easy to find, and I’ve never seen it before this year.
There are 6 Butterfly Mariposas blooming on Blue Canyon trail on a sunny hillside between Forbush and Cottam Meadows. Later in the year there will be a lot more along the trail and both Forbush and Cottam will be full of them (I’ve also seen them on the backside of Arroyo Burro trail, Mathias trail and Snyder trail). I’ve never seen them blooming earlier than May before (but I may not have visited this spot either). They usually bloom into June.
Also blooming at Forbush now are Western Tiger Swallowtail Mariposas:
Here one is sucking nectar from Blue Dicks while ignoring the Blue-Eyed Grass.
Another genus that has recently become visible is the suncup genus — well, it used to be one genus, now it’s about three, but they are closely related… When I first saw a suncup I thought it was some weird giant mustard flower, but aside from being yellow and having four petals the two are not really alike.
Jurupa Hills Sun Cup
The California Suncup is the most obvious of the three; it grows a about a yard tall with nice big flowers. I’ve seen it blooming in the last week on Mountain Dr., Cold Spring East Fork (near the top), and Blue Canyon. I expect it is now blooming on Jesusita too as I saw shoot coming up two weeks ago.
Sandy Soil Suncup is much more discrete; a small plant about 8 inches high with small flowers. It is also blooming on Mountain Dr. and in Cottam Meadow, and on Blue Canyon trail.
Jurupa Hills Sun Cups are even smaller; a small rosette of leaves maybe 3 inches in diameter and 1 inch tall with small flowers. I’ve seen it on Santa Cruz trail, Cold Spring between Camino Cielo and Forbush, and Blue Canyon between Forbush and Cottam.