Chocolate-colored, bell-shaped flowers nod in a meadow full of bunchgrass. Each stem has many six-petaled blooms scattered along its stalk. This is checker lily (Fritillaria affinis), a beautiful native of the west coast. It can be found in forest, brush and grassland.
Checker bloom has purple-brown petals that are mottled with green, and appear slightly frosted or glaucous on the outside. The flower forms a cup around six yellow stamens, and a three-parted pistil whose stigmas are tipped with tiny hairs. There is a rare variety, F. affinis ssp. tristulis, which is only found in Marin and is a special status species. It has less mottling and larger petals ( 2.7 to 4 cm long instead of 1.2 to 2.3 cm long).
Indigenous tribes ate the stems and bulbs of checker lily: roasted, dried, and as flavoring. Often they were boiled or steamed in pits. They are slightly bitter, even when cooked, and often were soaked overnight before cooking to make them more palatable.