Desert Mariposa Lily

Calochortus kennedyi

Mariposa Lily


Mariposa is the Spanish word for butterfly. A member of the lily (Liliaceae) family, this tall, slender, perennial shrub grows 2 to 18 inches high with thin gray leaves that are 4 to 8 inches long. Munz calls the desert mariposa lily "probably the most beautiful of desert wildflowers."

The genus Calochortus has numerous species, many of which are called a "Mariposa Lily." They are also referred to as star tulip or mariposa tulip and can vary greatly in color, displaying a variety of shades of yellow, orange or red flowers.


Mojave and Sonoran desert of southeastern California, western Arizona , southern Nevada and south into northern Mexico. Up to 6,500 feet.


Heavy soil in open areas of creosote/brush desert or pinyon/juniper woodlands.


One to six brilliant, red-orange flowers, 1 to 2 inches wide, bloom March through June. Each of the three fan-shaped petals has a maroon-to-brown splotch at the base. At higher elevations, flowers are more yellow than red.

Photo tips

Most digital point-and-shoot cameras have a macro function - usually symbolized by the icon of a little flower. When you turn on that function, you allow your camera to get closer to the subject, looking into a flower for example. Or getting up close and personal with a bug. More on desert photography.


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