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Calochortus /ˌkælɵˈkɔrtəs/[1] is a genus of plants that includes herbaceous, perennial and bulbous species. The genus includes approximately 70 species distributed in North America from south west British Columbia to northern Guatemala and east to Nebraska and the Dakotas. Calochortus is the most widely dispersed genus of Liliaceae on the North American Pacific coast.[2] Of these, 28 species are endemic to California.[3] The genus Calochortus includes Mariposas (or Mariposa lilies) with open wedge-shaped petals, Globe lilies and Fairy lanterns with globe-shaped flowers, and Cat's ears and Star tulips with erect pointed petals. The word Calochortus is derived from Greek and means "beautiful grass".

Calochortus produce one or more flowers on a stem that arises from the bulb, generally in the spring or early summer. Unlike most other Liliaceae, Calochortus petals differ in size and color from their sepals.[2] Flowers can be white, yellow, pink, purple, bluish, or streaked. The insides of the petals are often very 'hairy'. These hairs, along with the nectaries, are often used in distinguishing species from each other.

Calochortus nuttallii, the Sego Lily, is the official state flower of Utah.


In 1998, T.B. Patterson conducted a phylogenetic analysis of the genus, dividing it into seven main clades. The study indicated highly localized speciation, so that different clades were strongly linked to specific habitats, as follows:[4]

  • Mariposas: dry grasslands and semideserts
  • Star-tulips: wet meadows
  • Cat’s ears: montane woodlands
  • Fairy lanterns: closed forests.


Often sold as a mixture of Mariposa Lily bulbs. Hardiness Zones 5-9


The bulbs of many species were eaten by Native Americans. They were also eaten by the Mormon settlers in Utah during the first winter or two because of crop failures during the first few years of settlement in the Great Salt Lake Valley.

Species list[edit]

This list comprises the species found in the United States. Some species are restricted to Mexico and Guatemala.[5]

Calochortus gunnisonii var. gunnisonii


  1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ^ a b Dale, Nancy; Flowering Plants of the Santa Monica Mountains, Capra Press, 1986; pg. 28
  3. ^ USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Plant Profile for Calochortus Pursh; Data contributed by John K. Kartesz and USDA-NRCS National Plant Data Center
  4. ^ P. L. Fiedler & R. K. Zebell, Flora of North America; 18. Calochortus Pursh, Fl. Amer. Sept. 1: 240. 1814.
  5. ^ Gerritsen, Mary E and Parsons, R. Calochortus. Mariposa Lilies and Their Relatives. Timber Press, 2007.



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