Cyclobothra lutea (Douglas ex Lindl.) Lindl.
Mariposa lutea (Douglas ex Lindl.) Hoover
Common Name: Yellow Mariposa
Calochortus luteus is a herbaceous perennial plant producing a cluster of grass-like basal leaves 10 - 20cm long from an underground bulb. A flowering stem 20 - 50cm long, with bulbils at the base, is produced as the leaves wither[
The plant was a traditional food of the native N. Americans and often eaten in quantity. It is grown as an ornamental, valued for its attractive flowers.
South-western N. America - California
Heavy soils in grasslands, open woodlands, mixed evergreen forests; at elevations up to 700 metres[
]. Also found in pine, evergreen oak and mixed woodlands[
Calochortus luteus is native to semi-arid climates in western N. America, growing in freely draining soils. Whilst being very cold hardy, it can be a rather difficult plant to cultivate in moister temperate climates, being very intolerant of wetness especially when dormant.
Requires a deep very well-drained fertile sandy soil in a sunny position and must be kept dry after it flowers and over winter[
]. In moist climates it is usually easier to grow this species in a bulb frame, though it is worth trying outdoors at the base of a south-facing wall, especially with shrubs that like these conditions[
]. Bulbs have succeeded in a cold frame with the cover removed from March to October[
Bulbs can be lifted as soon as the foliage dies down in the summer and stored overwinter in a cool dry place, replanting in spring[
]. Another report says that the bulbs must be replanted as soon as they have been divided[
Bulbs frequently divide after flowering, the bulblets taking 2 years to reach flowering size[
When grown in cultivation, hand pollination is usually necessary if seed is required[
This species is closely allied to Calochortus venustus[
Bulb - raw or cooked[
]. About the size of a walnut, it is very palatable and nutritious[
]. The bulb can be harvested in early spring, peeled and eaten raw[
]. It can also be baked and eaten like potatoes[
]. The bulb can be used as a staple food[
Seed - sow as soon as ripe or early spring in a cold frame in a very sharply draining medium. Stratification may be helpful. Germination usually takes place within 1 - 6 months at 15°c[
]. Leave the seedlings undisturbed for their first two years growth[
], but give them an occasional liquid feed to ensure they do not become nutrient deficient. It is quite difficult to get the seedlings through their first period of dormancy since it is all too easy either to dry them out completely or keep them too moist when they will rot[
]. After their second year of growth, pot up the dormant bulbs in late summer and grow them on for at least another 2 years in the greenhouse before trying them outside. Seedlings take about 5 - 7 years to come into flower[
Division of the bulbs as soon as the foliage dies down. One report says that the bulbs must be planted into their permanent positions immediately[
], whilst another says that they can be stored overwinter and replanted in the spring[
Stem bulbils, harvested from the stems after flowering[
]. They can be stored cool and dry then planted in pots in the cold frame in the spring.