Palouse Prairie Foundation plant database (under development)
Genus species:      Common name:     Match: Full Partial
Plant Species: Calochortus nitidus, broadfruit mariposa

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta -- flowering plants
Class: Liliopsida -- monocots
Family: Liliaceae -- lily
Genus: Calochortus
Species: nitidus
Common Name: broad-fruit mariposa, big podded mariposa
Species Code: CANI
Origin: Endemic to grasslands and low meadows of extreme eastern Washington and adjacent northern Idaho.
Rare: a rare species that was formerly common in low meadows of the Palouse (Piper & Beattie 1914). It is ranked S1 by the Washington Natural Heritage Program, S3 by the Idaho Conservation Data Center, and a "species of concern" by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. It was thought to be extirpated from Washington, but populations were recently found in the Blue Mountains. Wild populations should be left strictly alone.

Form: forb, perennial, 20-40 cm tall, growing from a bulb, bulblets (offsets) not common.
Duration: perennial
Longevity: medium
Habitat Type: prairie
Wetland Indicator Status: not listed

Leaves: usually a single, flat basal leaf, 10-30 cm long, becoming involute toward the apex; and a single, linear cauline leaf.
Mature height: 8-16 inches
Flowers: 1-4, borne in a subumbel (umbel-like cyme); perianth campanulate; sepals ovate to lanceolate, 2-3 cm long, shorter than the petals, glabrous; petals lavender or purplish, with a dark purple crescent, obovate to oblanceolate, cuneate, sparsely pilose.
Flowers color: pink, white
Bloom: July
Bloom starts on:
Bloom ends on:
Fruit: capsule, erect, ellipsoid to orbicular, with 3 wings, 2-3 cm long; seed beige.
Vegetation type:

Reproduces sexually by seed.
Reproduction asexually from bulblets is rare (Flora of North America Editorial Committee 1993). Lacks bulblets in the leaf axils (Hitchcock et al 1969).
Perennating organ is a bulb.
2n=40 (Hitchcock et al 1969, Flora of North America Editorial Committee 1993).
Flowers are perfect.
The species is a tetraploid (Hitchcock et al 1969).
Fruit is a capsule.
Bagged flowers did not set seed, indicating cross-pollination is needed (Caicco 1988).
Herbivory reduces vigor of both individuals and populations (Caicco 1988).
Deer and cattle will eat the flower buds and small rodents eat the leaf (Caicco 1989). Pocket gophers eat the entire plant (Mancuso 1996).
Comments: wet meadow taxon collected before 1917 in the Palouse.

Sun requirement: full
Soil moisture: mesic

Sowing time: fall
Transplant time: not recommended
Stratification: extended cold moist
Seed yield: medium
Seed harvest: August
Seed first harvest: 4 years
Seed cleaning: easy
Planting duration: medium
Seed insect problem: none noted
Seed shatter: high
Seed size: medium
Seed harvest date: August
Seed comments:

Herbaria: Specimen data and digital resources from The Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria
Key words: rare
Alternate Genus:
Alternate Species:
Alternate Variety:

1 protocol in the Native Plant Network
Pullman WA Plant Materials Center

Other Propagation Information
Calochortus species propagate freely from seed but bulbs collected in the wild seldom survive more than a few years (Hitchcock et al 1969).
Calochortus spp. are notoriously difficult to grow and transplanted bulbs do not survive. The taller inland species may establish from seed sown on site (Kruckeberg 1996).
Best sown in place in the fall.
Reproduces sexually by seed.


Caicco, Steven L. 1988. Preliminary Results of an Investigation into the Life History and Population Dynamics of Calochortus nitidus/i> Dougl. (Liliaceae). Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Caicco, Steven L. 1989. Second-Year Results of an Investigation into the Life History and Population Dynamics of Calochortus nitidus Dougl. (Liliaceae). Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Online at

Fiedler, Peggy Lee. 1987. Life History and Population Dynamics of Rare and Common Mariposa Lilies (Calochortus Pursh: Liliaceae). Journal. of Ecology 75: 977-995.

Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 7+ vols. New York and Oxford. Oxford University Press. Online at

Hitchcock, C. Leo, Arthur Cronquist, Marion Ownbey, and J.W. Thompson. 1969. Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press. Seattle, WA. 5 vol.

Kruckeberg, Arthur R. 1996. Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press. Seattle, WA.

Mancuso, Michael. 1996. Report on the Conservation Status of i>Calochortus nitidus. Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Online at

McDonald, Hugh P., and Karin R. Stokkink. 1995. Magnificent Mariposas. American Horticulturalist 74(Dec):31-36.

Piper, C.V., and R.K. Beattie. 1914. The Flora of Southeastern Washington and Adjacent Idaho. Lancaster, PA: Press of the New Era Printing Company. 296 pp.

Washington Natural Heritage Program Field Guide to Selected Rare Plants Calochortus nitidus species information
Plant Profile from the USDA PLANTS Database
Species description from Flora of North America
Species information from the University of Washington Herbarium