Tag Archives: Mission bells

Plant of the day: checker lily

Fritillaria_affinis1Chocolate-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.

Other names for this species include mission bells, chocolate lily, and riceroot (after its bulblets, that look like grains of rice). Fritillaria_affinis1

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