Calochortus

Wildflowers Monocots Liliales Liliaceae

Mariposa lilies.

This genus produces some of the most beautiful flowers in our area. The distribution of the genus is centered on California and it is endemic to western North America.

Species of this genus are herbs which grow from bulbs. With the coming of the winter rains they put forth one basal leaf, in most species this leaf will have shriveled and died by the time the plant comes to flower. In the spring, each bulb produces one stem, which can branch. Leaves may grow from the stem.

There are three petals to each flower and three sepals below them. There are six stamens with a central stigma with three-fold symmetry.

C. albus
White fairy lantern

AprJuly

2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
C. catalinae
Catalina Mariposa Lily

AprJune

2014
C. clavatus
Pale Yellow Mariposa Lily

MayJune

2014
2010
C. fimbriatus
C. weedii vestus
Late blooming Mariposa lily

JuneAug

2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
C. kennedyi
Desert Mariposa Lily

2014
C. splendens
Splendid Mariposa Lily

AprJune

2014
C. venustus
Butterfly Mariposa lily

AprJune

2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
Seeds
The seedpods of these lilies are also distinguishable (or some are). The seedpod of most lily species points upward, and most lily seeds are small flakes which can be picked up and dispersed by the wind.

Those of C. albus are an exception: The seedpods point downwards, and the seeds themselves are small black balls designed to roll once they hit the ground. The seedpods are short and stout.

The seedpods of C. catalinae are also short and stout, but point upward.

Those of C. clavatus and C. kennedyi are long, stout at the base, but tapering toward the tip. (I can’t distinguish between these two seedpods, but they grow in such different places I can use that as a distinguishing feature).

Those of C. fimbriatus, C. splendens, and C. venustus are long and thin.

C. albus
White fairy lantern
C. catalinae
Catalina Mariposa Lily
C. clavatus
Pale Yellow Mariposa Lily
C. fimbriatus
Late blooming Mariposa lily
C. kennedyi
Desert Mariposa Lily
C. splendens
Splendid Mariposa Lily
C. venustus
Butterfly Mariposa lily

For those who mostly hike the front country trails, C. fimbriatus is probably the only Mariposa lily you are likely to see. This species starts blooming in late June or early July and can bloom into August. The best place to see it is on Cold Spring trail, in the switchbacks near where the Cold Fire burned. On this trail you may find 100 plants in bloom in early July. You will also find them on any trail that goes up to Camino Cielo from the front; there are several patches around Inspiration Point; a patch on the Buena Vista connector; a patch on Hot Springs connector (near Cold Spring); I even saw a patch blooming on Powerline road. I’ve seen them on Camino Cielo (east and west), Island View, on the back side of Cold Spring, Romero, and Arroyo Burro, on Blue Canyon, Forbush Canyon, Mattias Trails, and on the Alison Canyon Loop trail.

There was a mass bloom of this species around Inspiration after the Jesusita Fire, and on Cold Spring after the Cold Fire.

Although this species is common here it has a limited range, mostly between here and Ojai.

The other Mariposas tend to bloom a month or two earlier. And the only one of them I have seen bloom on this side of the mountains is C. albus (which blooms around the painted cave).

C. albus seems to like slightly damper conditions (this is my personal observation, not mentioned on calflora). I find it under dense shade (which almost always means a stream is nearby) or around seeps and gullies. It tends to start blooming about mid-April and bloom into mid-June. There’s a lot of it on the back side of Arroyo Burro, between Forbush and the Grotto on Cold Spring. There are some on Snyder, Santa Cruz and Aliso trails. Also on Paradise Rd., Camino Cielo and Painted Cave Rd.

I had never observed C. catalinae until 2014 when it started blooming in mid-April and continued until the end of June. I’ve seen it on Santa Cruz, Little Pine Mtn. and Aliso Canyon trails and on Camuesa Canyon Rd. There was a mass bloom of this after the White Fire on Aliso trail and Camuesa Rd.

In 2014 C. clavatus started blooming in early May and continued until late June (possibly early July). I have seen it on Aliso and Santa Cruz trails, on the summit of Little Pine Mtn, possibly on Upper Manzana trail (uncertain identification by seedpod), and at several places off Figueroa Mountain Rd. (one close to the summit, one near Los Olivos). In 2010 I found a single plant blooming on Arroyo Burro Rd. but when I revisited the location in subsequent years I found nothing.

I have seen C. kennedy once, in mid-June of 2014 on Lockwood Canyon Rd (in Ventura county) about 10 miles from Highway 33.

C. splendens is another species I first saw in 2014. It bloomed from mid-April to early July. I have seen it on Camuesa Canyon and Lockwood Valley Roads, on Aliso, Snyder and Manzana Trails. This species can grow taller than any other I have seen. There was probably a mass bloom of this after the White Fire.

C. venustus has the somewhat redundant common name of “the butterfly mariposa lily”. It can bloom as early as mid-April and continue into June. There are usually large stands of it in Cottam and Forbush meadows; you can also find it along Forbush Canyon trail, Paradise Rd., Snyder trail, Mattias trail, Santa Cruz trail (well up Little Pine Mtn.) and on Highway 33 in Ventura.

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