The sand lily (Leucocrinum montanum) has numerous common names including common starlily, mountain lily, star lily and rock lily. Monocots (the embryo has only one cotyledon or “seed leaf”), sand lilies are found throughout the Western States in sandy or rocky areas which are interspersed with sagebrush or ponderosa pine. Leucocrinum is a monotypic genus, that is, it only has one species.
Sand lilies are native perennials which grow from rhizomes. The plant has a basal cluster of eight to twenty linear, strongly veined leaves. There is no stem. The fragrant, white flowers arise directly from the rhizome and consist of six tepals (structures not clearly either petals or sepals) and a long perianth (sepals and petals collectively) tube. The stamens and style are exserted from the mouth of the flower while the ovary is at the bottom of the perianth tube. The fruit is a capsule which matures below the ground. The seeds are black.
The roots are edible. Since I love this delicate, unusual flower I have not tasted its roots. Native Americans used a poultice of pulverized roots or rhizomes for sores and swellings.
The genus name, Leucocrinum, derives from the Greek words “leuco” meaning white and “krinon” meaning lily. The species designation, montanum, means “of mountains” in Latin.
These sand lilies were growing along Modoc County (California) Road 360 east of the junction with CA Highway 299 near the Perez Overpass.