Yellow Mariposa Lily

Scientific Name

Calochortus luteus Dougl. ex Lindl.

Alternate Names

Mariposa, sego lily, yellow calochortus



The bulbs were gathered for food with a digging stick by the southern Paiute and the Sierra Miwok. The Miwok dug the bulbs when buds appeared on the plants in April or later in flowering. The bulbs were roasted for about 20 minutes in ashes of a fire that had died down. When retrieved they were soft, like boiled potatoes. The bulbs also were baked in an earth oven.


General: Lily Family (Liliaceae). Populations of this species are found in heavy soils in grassland, woodland, and mixed-evergreen forest below 700 m. The leaves are basal, 10-20 cm long, and linear. The showy flowers have 1-7 per stem. The yellow petals are bell-shaped and often have a central red-brown blotch inside, sparsely slender-hairy near the base and the crescent-shaped nectary is not depressed. The fruit is an angled capsule, 3-6 cm long.


Collect or buy seed from local sources. Place the seeds in a paper bag until you are ready to plant them. Plant them in a 5 inch or deeper pot in a soil that has excellent drainage. Scatter the seeds at least one-quarter inch apart. Sprinkle a light layer of soil on top and then place quarter-inch gravel on top of the soil. The seed should be planted in the fall and requires no stratification. Let the pots sit outside during the winter in partial shade. Water the pots, keeping them slightly damp. Germination is generally about February. Fertilize the plants in a weak solution about once a month during active growth until April. When the tips of the leaves turn yellow, stop watering and fertilizing (about the end of April). The bulbs are dormant by flowering time. In the fall start watering again. Give the plants more room in the fall of the second or third year by transplanting them and spacing them 1-2 inches apart. Plant the plants outside in the ground in the third or fourth year. Plant them in full sun in summer or fall. Start watering them in September. After they have bloomed for the first time, they should be established.


Weed around the plants regularly and protect them from insects, birds, mammals, and other animals.


Barrett, S.A. & E.W. Gifford. 1933. Miwok material culture. Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee 2(4):117-376.

Fiedler, P. & B. Ness 1993. Calochortus. pp. 1183-1189 IN: The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. J.C. Hickman (ed.). University of California Press, Berkeley, California.

USDA, NRCS 1999. The PLANTS database. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. . Version: 990405.

Prepared By

M. Kat Anderson USDA, NRCS, National Plant Data Center c/o Environmental Horticulture Department, University of California, Davis, California
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