Tag Archives: mariposa lily

Plant of the day: fairy lantern

This is one of the most beautiful flowers of the Bay Area. It’s aptly named, with its complex blossom looking like a delicately wrought lantern nodding on a slender stem. The three upper sepals curve upward like a pagoda roof, while the fringed petals below curl inwards as if to protect a flame. It’s not hard to imagine them as fixtures in a tiny magical kingdom. Keep your eye out for these little plants, and when you find one, look close!

The fairy lantern (Calochortus amabalis) is endemic to northern California, and is pretty much restricted to the coast range north of San Francisco bay. As such, Marin County is toward the southern-most end of the species’ range, and it is a rare sight here. These photos were taken in Sonoma county, where it is much more common.

Because all the parts are in threes, you can tell it is in the lily family, like the irises and blue-eyed grass.

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Plant of the day: large-flowered star tulip

Here is another mariposa lily, this one seen in a low moist meadow near Bon Tempe lake. Calochortus uniflorus, or the large-flowered star tulip. You can tell it from the Oakland star tulip (which I wrote about last week) because it grows in wet meadows instead of on rocky slopes or damp hillsides. Both flowers have delicate, lightly hairy petals. Though the coloring can overlap, the large-flowered star tulip trends more towards purple while the Oakland star tulip is in the white to pale lavender range.

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