Brown bells (Fritillaria micrantha) arise from a large bulb with fleshy scales. This native perennial is a member of the Lily Family (Liliaceae). It is endemic to California, specifically to the dry, western slopes of the Sierra Nevada between 1,000 and 6,000 feet.
The long, linear leaves occur in whorls of 4 to 6 on the lower portion of the simple, erect stems and on the upper portion of the stem are alternate. The pictured leaves illustrate the common leaf arrangement. However, among the few plants Leonard and I found, there were stems with only alternate leaves and some with only whorled leaves.
The bell-like flower has six tepals (structures that are not identified as specifically sepals or petals). The color is variable but usually is purplish to greenish-yellow, often mottled or edged in color. There is a narrow gland present on the lower portion of the tepal. One or more nodding brown bells flowers occur in each leaf axil.
The fruit of brown bells is a widely winged capsule containing two rows of brown seeds per chamber.
The species designation (micrantha) means “small flowered” and comes from the Greek “mikros” (small) and “antho” (flower).
Brown bells are uncommon. These specimens were photographed in April along the Wapama Falls Trail in the Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite National Park CA.