The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Spring Equinox 1999 || Volume II, Number 1


Calochortus albus rubellus

Photo by Boon Hughey ©1998,

Calochortus albus Douglas ex Bentham var. rubellus Greene
Fairy Lanterns, Globe Lily, Snow Drops, Indian Bells, Satin Bells.

These beautiful and distinctive wildflowers are often encountered in the Santa Lucia Mountains during their flowering period, which begins in April and usually lasts to about mid to late June, depending on the rainfall and temperatures of a particular season. They are bulbous perennial herbs of shady or semi-shady woodland habitats, or sometime of shady situations in chaparral. The stems are erect or ascending, usually branched upwards, and about 2 to 8 dm. (8-32) tall. The leaves are linear to linear-lanceolate, and rising from the bulb before the annual growth of the stem is a linear basal leaf about 3 to 7 dm. (12-28) long and 1 to 5 cm. wide. The cauline (stem) leaves become reduced in size upwards on the stem. The flowers are produced at the end of the branches and in the axils of the upper leaves, on down-turned pedicels about 1 to 4 cm. long. The three outer petals (perianth segments) are ovate and about 1 to 1.5 cm. long, while the three inner segments are broadly elliptic, about 2 to 2.5 cm., and converge towards the apex to form globe-like structures. The segments are tinged with pink and often have reddish streaks, and the glands of the inner segments resemble blood blisters. The fruit is a three-winged and elliptic-oblong capsule about 2.5 to 4 cm. long. Variety rubellus, which is distinguished from the typical species by its reddish to pinkish petals (these are white in C. albus albus), occurs only in the Santa Cruz and Santa Lucia Mountains, from San Mateo County to San Luis Obispo County, and again on Santa Cruz Island (Santa Barbara County), while the typical species occurs in the Coast Ranges from the San Francisco Bay Area southward to the Western Transverse Ranges of Santa Barbara County, and in the Sierra Nevada foothills, from Butte County to Madera County. In the eastern regions of the Santa Lucia Mountains, toward the Salinas Valley, the typical variety is often encountered.

Identification and botanical description by David Rogers.

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