Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the June 19, 2005 Newsletter issued from the Sierra Nevada foothills somewhat east of Placerville, California, USA

With good competition from the Red Columbines, AQUILEGIA TRUNCATA, and scarlet-topped Paintbrushes, CASTILLEIA PINETORUM, probably the hike's most gorgeous wildflower was one growing like a weed along certain roads. It was the White Mariposa Lily, CALOCHORTUS VENUSTUS, and you can see one here.

White Mariposa Lilies are like large, white tulips with big, red-brown spots at the base of each of the three "petals." They're unlike tulips in that the "petals" are broad and outward-flaring, causing the plant sometimes to be known as globe-tulips and butterfly-lilies as well as mariposa-lilies (mariposa is Spanish for butterfly).

Mariposa lilies are members of the Lily Family. A few weeks ago I told you about the Yellow Star Tulip, CALOCHORTUS MONOPHYLLUS, of the same genus. Like the genus Brodiaea, Calochortus contains a lot of species and some are abundant and spectacular in the West. I can't think of similar genera back East, behaving and looking like gone-wild tulips. That name, Calochortus, is built from classical Greek words meaning "beautiful grass."