Calochortus clavatus

Calochortus clavatus is a Mariposa with golden flowers and a depressed gland. It is found in central and southern California. Some have unmarked petals, others range from heavily marked to lightly pencilled in red brown. Anthers can be maroon red, pale brown, cream, pale lavender or beige. It can be a bit challenging to grow in very wet climates as it develops fungal infections. There is a wide variety in the various wild populations and five varieties recognized in the Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. Kew recognizes three varieties, but people observing this species in the wild say there is such a variation in the different populations, that even the characteristics that are supposed to separate them are not constant.

Seed photo by David Pilling.

Calochortus clavatus seed, David Pilling

Calochortus clavatus var. avius is not accepted by Kew, but in Mariposa, the journal of the Calochortus Society, the Robinetts made a strong plea to retain it and variety clavatus. This variety is supposed to have petals smaller than the sepals and a very deep nectary and is rare, found in oak pine forests in El Dorado and Amador counties. It is geographically isolated from all of the other varieties of Calochortus clavatus, found in the Sierra Nevada mountains (all the other varieties are found in the South Coast Ranges) and thus deserving of the designation as a distinct variety. It grows in full sun, but in between mesquite bushes, and can be hard to find. It usually blooms later, from June to late July. The photos below were taken in a relatively recent burn (1995) area on the approach to Ice House Lake, El Dorado County, California. July 2006. Photos by Mary Gerritsen

Calochortus clavatus var avius, Mary GerritsenCalochortus clavatus var avius, Mary GerritsenCalochortus clavatus var avius, Mary GerritsenCalochortus clavatus var avius, Mary GerritsenCalochortus clavatus var avius, Mary Gerritsen

Excerpts and photos from Kipp McMichael's "Calochortus pursuits":

"Having packed-in Calochortus trips in April and May, I slowed the pace in June - more because of the natural waning of the Calochortus season than for any decline in my interest. My next trip was another morning jaunt a few hours from Berkeley along Hwy 88 in El Dorado County. Here in scattered spots, and after fires sometimes in huge stands, grows Calochortus clavatus [var] avius. This geographically disjunct taxon has robust yellow flowers on tall stems. I did not see plants to rival the reports of 6 foot monsters after forest fires - but even so the flowers I did find were certainly the largest of any taxa of Calochortus with blooms 3-4" across."

Calochortus clavatus var avius, Kipp McMichaelCalochortus clavatus var avius, Kipp McMichael

Calochortus clavatus var. clavatus is taller than some of the other varieties and has zig-zag stems. It has deep yellow petals, knobby hairs and deep purple anthers and is usually found growing on serpentine. This variety is widely accepted. Photo taken at Telos Rare Bulbs by Mary Sue Ittner. The second photo, taken by Ron Parsons , is from a population on Cuesta Ridge, San Luis Obispo County, California. The third photo was taken by Susan Hayek.

Calochortus clavatus var. clavatus, Mary Sue IttnerCalochortus clavatus var clavatus, Ron ParsonsCalochortus clavatus var clavatus, Susan Hayek

Excerpts and photos from Kipp McMichael's "Calochortus pursuits":

"My first long-distance roadtrip of the season included a friend and started with Figueroa Mountain in [Santa Barbara] County. We saw seed pods of Calochortus catalinae (no photos though!) - one of the few Calochortus that can be identified in seed because of its distinctively rounded capsules. Higher up the mountain on a serpentine outcrop, we found a population of Calochortus clavatus. Many of these plants were 10" tall or less but nonetheless had large, yellow blooms 2-3" across."

Calochortus clavatus var clavatus, Kipp McMichael

"We headed west toward the most Calochortus-rich county in California - San Luis Obispo County. As passed a roadcut hillside south of Hwy 166, we saw a few big stems of Calochortus clavatus [var] clavatus. Stems 2 feet or taller held aloft the yellow bowls - many of which were blushed a darker rust-orange on the outer petals."

Calochortus clavatus var clavatus, Kipp McMichaelCalochortus clavatus var clavatus, Kipp McMichael

Calochortus clavatus var. gracilis is smaller, sparsely hairy with a reddish brown line above the small shallow nectary and is found in northern Los Angeles county. This variety is not accepted by Kew and the Robinetts also did not think that size was enough reason to separate it. Photos taken by Ron Parsons from wild populations in Los Angeles County in May, 2005.

Calochortus clavatus var gracilis, Ron ParsonsCalochortus clavatus var gracilis, Ron Parsons

Calochortus clavatus var. pallidus is also bigger, like var. clavatus with zig zag stems. It has lighter yellow petals and hairs that are not very knobby and yellow to medium purple anthers. Accepted by Kew, the Robinetts questioned whether the lighter color was enough to separate it since various populations showed significant variation in color. The first photo was taken by Ron Parsons, from a wild population in San Benito County, California. The next three photos were taken by Mary Sue Ittner of the first flowering of a plant grown from seed. The last photo was taken by Bob Rutemoeller.

Calochortus clavatus var pallidus, Ron ParsonsCalochortus clavatus var pallidus, Mary Sue IttnerCalochortus clavatus var pallidus, Mary Sue IttnerCalochortus clavatus var pallidus, Mary Sue IttnerCalochortus clavatus var pallidus, Bob Rutemoeller

Calochortus clavatus var. recurvifolius. This variety was found in coastal San Luis Obispo county and is a dwarf variant, hairy with recurved leaves and deep yellow petals with interesting markings and deep purple anthers. The Robinetts did not feel it warranted variety recognition. The first photos was taken by Sheila Burrow and the second at Telos Rare Bulbs by Mary Sue Ittner. The other photos were taken by Ron Parsons in early 1997 from a location in San Luis Obispo county.

Calochortus clavatus var. recurvifolius, Sheila BurrowCalochortus clavatus var. recurvifolius, Mary Sue IttnerCalochortus clavatus var. recurvifolius, Ron ParsonsCalochortus clavatus var. recurvifolius, Ron ParsonsCalochortus clavatus var. recurvifolius, Ron Parsons

Excerpts and photos from Kipp McMichael's "Calochortus pursuits":

"I then returned to that geophyte-rich bluff north of San Simeon mentioned above,where there also grows a very rare sub-population of C. clavatus - Calochortus clavatus var recurvifolius. Looking very appropriately like stocky, darkly marked Calochortus clavatus, these plants grow within a few feet of the eroding bluff edge. The exposed plants I saw were no more than 5 inches tall. This population is extremely small and quite literally grows within spitting distance of the bluff's edge."

Calochortus clavatus var recurvifolius, Kipp McMichael

"After enjoying the earliest blooms of C. obsipoensis, we returned to the north-of San Simeon bluff to catch more diminutive Calochortus luteus and, we hoped, more blooms of Calochortus clavatus var recurvifolius. We found more of both and were particularly happy to see more C. clavatus [var] recurvifolius than we had detected on our earlier visits - though the population was still well below 50 individual plants."

Calochortus clavatus var recurvifolius, Kipp McMichael

Return to the Calochortus index
Return to the Photographs and Information page
Page last modified on August 11, 2015, at 06:04 AM