This prized western native is one of the early season bloomers and is the state flower of Utah. The creamy white to occasionally light violet, tulip shaped flowers are usually found in open pine forests and meadows above 5,000 ft. elevation. The three petals each have yellow bases with magenta or lavender markings with blue-green grass-like leaves.
Color: White to light violet
Height: 6″- 8″
Pkt weight: 120 mg
Bloom time: Late Spring – Early Summer
Few native flowers are as beautifully conspicuous in the early spring as this one. This native, cool season, perennial has sparse grass like leaves that first appear in the early spring, with the goblet-shaped blossom in colors of white, cream or violet appearing in April, May and June on a single stem. Only reaching heights of 6-8 inches, this flower with three broad satiny/waxy petals is found in open grass and sage rangelands and ponderosa pine forests. The petals have purple streaks or spots which draw bees and beetles into the base where each petal has a purple crescent shape with a fringe of yellow hairs and nectar. This species is named after Thomas Nuttall (1786 – 1859) a naturalist who collected Sego Lily on a trip along the upper Missouri River. Calochortus comes from the greek ‘Kalos’ which means ‘beautiful’ and ‘chortos’ which means ‘grass’. The plant was very important to the Native Americans and may have named it ‘sego’ (Shoshone) or ‘sago’ (Ute) for ‘edible bulb’. The early Utah pioneers learned to dig the bulbs to supplement their diets when food was scarce during the years; 1840 -1851, due to a plague of crickets. The flower was later chosen as the Utah State Flower in 1911.
Reproduction of this species is both by seed and by small bulbs that form below ground. The fruit is a 3-chambered capsule that splits to release flattened seeds. Sego Lilies are an excellent candidate for the xeriscape garden as they need the excellent drainage of sandy or gravelly soil and require no water during the summer dormant stage. The bulbs will work their way down to a depth of 10 cm after seed germination by means of contractile root structures.