Leonard and I spent the last week in the Yosemite Area. The wildflowers are only beginning to bloom, but I did find many “new” specimens. I will share some of these plants in my next series of posts.
One of my favorite “finds” is white fairy lantern (Calochortus albus). There are over 50 species of Calochortus in California. They all have flowers with three petals. Those whose petals are open are known as mariposa lilies. The members of this genus with closed, globe or egg-shaped flowers are called globe lilies.
A native perennial, white fairy lanterns area found below 5,000 feet in the southern 2/3 of California. Its habitat includes shaded areas, open woods and brush and chaparral. Rocky places and serpentine soils are preferred.
This member of the Lily Family (Liliaceae), white fairy lantern has an erect to arching stem arising from a bulb. The stem may be simple or branched. There is one long, shiny basal leaf that persists during blooming. The cauline leaves are lance to linear in shape. The plant becomes dormant after the seeds are set and mature.
The nodding flowers of white fairy lantern have three greenish (often with a purple tinge) sepals that are shorter than the three white petals. The petals overlap slightly and are closed at the tip giving the flower a globe or lantern shape. There is a fringe of hairs around the edges of the inner petal surface and above the nectary. Six stamens and a pistil with one style and 3 stigmas complete the flower.
White fairy lantern fruits are three-winged capsules that contain dark brown seeds.
Other colloquial names for C albus include white globe lily, Indian bells and satin bells. The genus name means “beautiful grass” and is from the Greek “kalos” (beautiful) and “chortus” (grass). This name refers to the grass-like foliage of many members of the genus. The species name is Latin for “white”
Leonard and I found these white fairy lantern specimens along California Highway 140 between Mariposa CA and Yosemite National Park.