Calochortus luteus is one of the more common mariposas found in foothills throughout the Coast Ranges and western Sierra Nevada foothills of California. It is found in grassy meadows and banks, either flat or gently sloped. It has yellow flowers in various shades of yellow, with varying degrees of penciling or red-brown lines and sometimes with a red-brown circular blotch above the gland.
This species is one of the easiest Calochortus to grow in a summer-dry climate. Seeds should be sown in a well-drained soil, and not watered until temperatures drop in the autumn. They do not need to be cold-stratified. Water weekly until the leaves start to die back (usually May-June in the northern hemisphere), and keep the seed pot in dry shade until the next autumn. As noted above, if given great drainage, cultivars of this species may be able to survive in-ground in summer-wet climates.
The photos below were taken by Mary Gerritsen on Mount Tamalpais (Marin County, CA) where these plants can be seen in the various grassy meadows.
The photos below were taken on the Tiburon Peninsula, at the base of Ring Mountain. Photo 1 was taken by Mary Gerritsen and photos 2-4 were taken by Nhu Nguyen. Photo 4 shows the plant growing with the Tiburon dark purple form of Triteleia laxa and photo 5 shows the flowers blending in with a yellow and orange form of California poppies.
Excerpts and photos from Kipp McMichael's "Calochortus pursuits":
"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 recurvifolius than we had detected on our earlier visits - though the population was still well below 50 individual plants. The buttery-yellow C. luteus were having a good year and just as we left, I found a color variant with petals of palest yellow."
"I wrote previously of the very special bluff north of San Simeon, CA where 4 different species of Calochortus grow side-by-side. Alas, but the plants do not bloom synchronously - so catching them all takes trips across 3 or so months from April to June. My first visit in late April was too late for the bloom of Calochortus uniflorus here, but I did catch a seedpod ripening. Much more common, and just coming into bloom, was a delightful dwarf population of Calochortus luteus. There are tens of thousands of plants along Highway 1 where the discerning eye can pick them out from the more orange poppies and more golden compositae in this coastal grassland."
Calochortus luteus 'Golden Orb' is a cultivar of outstanding beautiful yellow flowers. It was selected from a wild form of the species. Photos 1 was taken by Doug Westfall of a plant grown in a container. Photos 2-4 were taken by Mark McDonough of plants growing in his northern Massachusetts garden. He grows these summer dormant bulbs at the base of shrubs and small trees, which seems to work well. The stems are tall, to 30" (75 cm), topped with many buds and startling bowl-shaped yellow flowers, speckled brown within. The individual blooms last a good long time, thus are useful for bright color in late June through July. These bulbs came from Paige Woodward at Pacific Rim Nursery.