Calochortus fimbriatus — The Late-blooming Mariposa Lily

The Late-blooming Mariposa Lily is probably my favorite flower. It basically grows along Camino Cielo from Gaviota to Ojai (Oh, and there’s a small patch up at the border of San Luis Obisbo and Monterey Counties too). I concentrate on Camino Cielo, the map below (which you should click on to make legible) shows where I have found it.
Basically it grows along the ridge line, and on every trail that climbs up to Camino Cielo, and most of the roads too. I’ve found two small patches on the far side of the the Santa Ynez river (one on Aliso trail, and a single plant on Camuesa Rd. near Upper Oso). In the front country I’ve seen it as low as about 800ft (250m), but it doesn’t make it down as far as Mountain Dr. (as far as I know).

It seems to like open areas, it is most common beside trails and roads, and occasional on the top of knolls with little other vegetation. On the few occasions when I have gone bushwhacking through chaparral I have found none. In places burned by fires there do not appear to be hidden bulbs waiting the right conditions. In the burn scars plants are only found beside the trail or on knolls.

It’s a beautiful flower.
Calochortus fimbriatus

Its identity confounded me for years because it was treated as a subspecies of C. weedii, but it looks quite different from the nominate subspecies and I didn’t expect that.

It is also fairly variable with some blooms having lots of black hairs, and others lots of yellow.

This year I decided to try to keep accurate counts of how many plants were blooming where. I tried to visit Jesusita and Cold Spring trails (Mountain Dr. to Forbush) once a week to see how the season progressed.

This year I saw my first bloom on Cold Spring trail just above the Cold Fire scar on 19 June, and the last on the back side of Cold Spring on 30 July. In years past I have seen it blooming as early as 9 June (2013, 2015) and as late as 21 August (2015).

This year the first flowers appeared right after we got out from under the June fog and had some hot weather. But last year that was not the case.

The graphs below are bar graphs showing the number of plants blooming (which is slightly different from the number of blooms) on the dates that I observed them. Dates with no red bars above them mean that I observed no blooms. On days when I did not observe there aren’t even dates.

This was not a good year for blooms near Inspiration, there were some, but nothing like what we had the year after the Jesusita Fire.

A few hundred yards down from Inspiration, toward Tunnel, is another good patch. Inspiration is in full sun, this patch is shaded and it consistently blooms later, takes longer to reach its peak, but ultimately has more plants. Indeed it peaks when Inspiration is almost finished.
Jesusita Tunnel_2016

On the alternate route up Cold Spring (now with a sign saying “Ridge Trail”) there is a good patch about half-way up to the powerlines.
CS Ridge_2016

There’s another patch around the intersection with Hot Springs Connector.
CS Hot_2016

The biggest patch of all is around the Cold Fire burn scar. This is usually where I see blooms first, and always where I see the most.
Cold Fire_2016

There are occasional patches above that up to Montecito Peak, and I lump them all into one group (there’s a patch on top of Montecito Peak, but no more patches between Montecito Peak and the top).
CS Back_2016

And finally there are several patches between Camino Cielo and Forbush which I also lump together.
CS Upper_2016

(Of course there are many other patches in other places, but I didn’t visit them frequently enough to make a graph).

I am intrigued by how different the bloom peaks are, especially the patch at Inspiration and that down toward Tunnel, these are very close physically but quite different in timing. I presume this is because the patch at Inspiration is on the ridge line where it gets full sun, while the other is on a north-facing slope in morning shade.


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