Habit: a handsome low growing perennial with bright yellow flowers. Calochortus luteus starts from seeds or regrows in the winter from a bulb. In the spring, it sends out long, grass-like basal leaves and short, slender stems. Second-year stems are topped with attractive blossoms. The flowers are 1-2 inches across, bell-shaped, and bear three wide yellow petals. The center of the flower is sparsely hairy and has distinct reddish brown streaks and blotches. After pollination, the plant produces seeds and goes dormant for the summer.
Ecology: it is found in coastal prairie, hilly grasslands and woodland openings. It is endemic to California, growing from the central coast to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
Growing conditions: sun to partial shade. It is easy to grow and tolerates a variety of soil types, including heavy clay soils. It requires good drainage and should be kept dry during the summer.
Yellow mariposa lily is a favorite of landscape designers. It is a lovely addition to a sun garden, where it will attracts pollinators. This species was used by Native Americans as a staple food. Its bulbs have edible starches and can be enjoyed raw or baked like potatoes.