Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council Plants Resource Page

Plant of the Month - Mariposa Lily

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Plant Description

Common Name(s):Mariposa Lily
Scientific Name:Calochortus species
Family:Liliaceae (Lily)
Plant Type:Perennial
Size:1-3 feet
Habitat:grasslands, slopes, chaparral
Blooms:February to June
Fire Response:Sprouts from bulb.

Mariposa means "butterfly" in Spanish, and the flowers of this plant do bear some resemblance to the winged insect. They are are a few inches in diameter and quite showy, having 3 wedge-shaped petals and sepals, forming a goblet- or bowl-shape. Calochortus means beautiful grass, referring to the long, grasslike leaves, which are not very noticeable and wither somewhat when the plant is blooming. These are perennials which sprout from a bulb, a food source for native people. The bulbs of this plant were eaten raw, roasted in ashes, boiled, or baked in an earth oven.

The following chart gives some distinguishing characteristics of the Mariposas which are native to our mountains. Catalina, Plummer and Yellow Mariposa and Splendid are pictured on this page. Hover over the images to see the names of the flowers. The gallery is arranged so that images 1 through 8 are Catalina Mariposa Lily (the most common variety in our area), 9-14 are Plummers Mariposa Lily, 15-19 are Yellow Mariposas, 20-22 are Butterfly Mariposas and 23 is the Splendid Mariposa Lily.

Catalina Mariposa Lily,Calochortus catalinae
White tinged with pink or blue, not usually with hairs blooms March-May is 1 to 2 feet high, fire-follower, one flower per stem, found in grassland and coastal sage scrub. Gallery Images 1-8
Plummers Mariposa Lily, Pink Mariposa Lily,Calochortus plummerae
Pale yellow interior to pink edges, speckled appearance, usually fringed with hair near the base. May-July; 1 to 2 feet high, found in openings in chaparral and on dry, rocky slopes. Gallery Images 9-14
Yellow Mariposa Lily, Clubhair Mariposa Lily,Calochortus clavatus
Bright yellow, usually fringed with hair near the base; April-June; 1 to 3 feet high, fire-follower, up to 5 flowers on a zig-zagging stem, found on dry slopes. All the yellow colored Mariposa Lilies in our range are this variety. The common name Clubhair comes from the rounded end on the hair of the flower. Hand len's were invented for this task. Gallery Images 15-19
Butterfly Mariposa Lily, Calochortus venustus
White with a pink spot on each petal, scattered hairs near the base of the petals.Blooms April-July; 1 to 3 feet high, not common, found in grasslands or shaded forested areas. Gallery Images 20-22
Splendid Mariposa Lily, Lilac Mariposa Lily,Calochortus splendens
Deep lilac, with a few hairs at the base; May-June;1 to 2 feet high, usually several flowers per stem, found on dry slopes. Gallery Image 23

Contributed by Liz Baumann - Updated by George Sherman

Mariposa Lily - Originally featured: May 2008
Last modified: January 13 2018 19:31:20.
Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Images Botanical Terms for Leaves