Thursday, March 25, 2010

Desert Mariposa Lily

The desert mariposa lily, also known as the desert mariposa, Kennedy's mariposa, flame mariposa and red mariposa (Calochortus kennedyi), is a rare flower in the lily family found in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts of southeastern California, western Arizona, southern Nevada and northern Mexico. Those below were photographed along the lower portion of Deep Creek on the north side of the San Bernardino Mountains.
It can be found in rocky or heavy clay soils at elevations from 2,000 up to 6,500 feet in creosote desert or pinyon/juniper woodlands. The plant can grow up to two feet high and has a few gray/green leaves. The stems are upright and slender.
On May 22, 2010, I found several mariposa lilies in the Mojave National Preserve, near the highest elevation of Cima Road.
Each flower, up to three inches across, has three fan-shaped petals
and a maroon-to-brown splotch at the base.
Each flower blooms for about a week in the spring if rainfall has been sufficient. Below, a mariposa lily just beginning
to unfold.
The mariposa lily below was photographed in Joshua Tree National Park.
During dry spells, the bulb will remain dormant and can survive that way for a number of years. The orange flowers are generally found in desert areas and the yellow flowers are generally found at higher elevations in upland grassy areas. It is one of the most beautiful desert flowers, but attempts to cultivate it in gardens have not been successful. Mariposa is the Spanish word for butterfly.

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