Butterfly Mariposa Lily (Calochortus venustus)

Butterfly Mariposa Lily (Calochortus venustus)

Calochortus venustus is a species of flowering plant in the lily family known by the common name butterfly mariposa lily. It is endemic to California, particularly to Central and Southern California and the Sierra Nevadas, where it thrives in the light, sandy soils of a number of habitats, both grasslands and open wooded areas, over a wide range of altitudes.

Calochortus venustus is a perennial herb producing a branching stem 10 to 60 centimeters tall. There is a basal leaf up to 20 centimeters long which withers by the time the plant blooms. The inflorescence is a loose cluster of 1 to 6 erect, bell-shaped flowers. The flowers are variable in size and palette; they are often showy and intricately patterned. They generally have three curving sepals 2 or 3 centimeters long and three oval-shaped, clawed petals up to 5 centimeters long. The petals may be a variety of colors from white to pale pink or purple to bright red or orange, sporting a large dark central blotch and a smaller, paler blotch above. The fruit is an angled capsule 5 or 6 centimeters long.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.