Tolmie’s Mariposa Lily (Calochortus tolmiei)
This low elevation west-side species of Calochortus is notable for the extreme hairiness inside the flower. More than other Mariposa lilies (“butterfly” in spanish), these really earn the “Cat’s Ear” nickname. In spring, these can be found scattered across meadows and forests west of the Cascades and on the coast, mostly in Oregon and northern California. Baskett Slough, a Willamette Valley birding spot outside of Salem, had about as many in its open fields as we’ve seen at one time.
Calochortus translated from the Greek means “beautiful grass.” There are at least a dozen Calochortus species in the northwest, some very rare. (Don’t miss the rich Calochortus gallery of photos by Don Jacobson found in the Portland Oregon Native Plant Society monthly newsletters.) Their appeal to wildflower hunters is due not only to their beauty, but also their resistance to gardening: “Not a single species of mariposa lily has succeeded in cultivation.”-Arthur Kruckeberg Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest (1982).