Calochortus amabilis

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Calochortus amabilis
Calochortus amabilis 2.jpg

Apparently Secure (NatureServe)[1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Liliales
Family: Liliaceae
Genus: Calochortus
C. amabilis
Binomial name
Calochortus amabilis

Calochortus amabilis[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11] (syn. C. pulchellus var. amabilis)[11] is a species of the genus Calochortus in the family Liliaceae. It is also known by the common names Diogenes' lantern,[2][3][4][7] yellow globe-tulip,[7] golden globe-tulip,[4] yellow globe lily,[3] golden fairy lantern,[3][4][6][9][10] golden lily-bell,[7] Chinese lantern,[4] and short lily.[8]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The plant is endemic to northern California, from the east bay [notably in Mount Diablo State Park <>] and north of the San Francisco Bay Area.[3][4][5][12] It grows in the Northern California Coast Ranges and Klamath Mountains, from 100 metres (330 ft)[2][4]–1,000 metres (3,300 ft)[2]–1,500 metres (4,900 ft)[4] in altitude. It is a common member of the scrub and woodland flora, found on dry slopes in California oak woodland and chaparral habitats.[2][3] Soil types vary, from the nearly solid serpentine rock to yellow clay.[4] Natural habitat is quite wet, with 75 cm or more of rain per year, followed by a dry, hot summer. Winters are cool but not frigid (USDA zones 8-9). The growing season is from midwinter to the April–May–June flowering and seed set. The plant is dormant from mid-June to November.[4]

Common understory plant associates are Calochortus luteus, Clarkia unguiculata and Delphinium variegatum.[citation needed]


Calochortus amabilis is a bulbous perennial herb producing an upright, somewhat waxy branching stem to heights between 10 and 50 centimeters.[2] The leaf at the base of the stem is flat, waxy, and narrow in shape, reaching up to 50 centimeters long and not withering away at flowering.[2][13]

The inflorescence bears two or more heavily nodding flowers, each with spreading pointed yellow sepals and brown-speckled yellow petals. The inside of the petals is waxy and coated in small hairs. The fruit is a winged capsule up to three centimeters long containing dark brown seeds.[2][5]

  • Height: 10-[2][5] 20-[3] 30-[7] 50 cm[2][3][5] (4–20 in) high at maturity.
  • Spread: 5 cm (2 in) spread.[5]
  • Stems: Stems are glaucous,[2][4][7] stout,[7] flexuous,[4] and generally branching,[2][3][4][7] reaching 10-[2][4][6] 20-30[7]-50 cm.[2][4][6]
  • Leaves: Leaves come in two types: cauline[2][3][7] or basal[2][3] (radical).[7]
  • Inflorescences: Nodding,[2][3][7] pendent[4] flowers are borne in groups of 2-many,[2] hanging in open branched clusters.[3] Bracts are lanceolate, and measure 2–10 cm in length.[2]
    • Flowers: Flowers measure about 2.5-[3][4] 4 cm[4] in length and are borne from April–June.[2][3]
    • Perianth: Perianth is spheric and is either neatly closed at the tip[2] or has petals that overlap slightly at the tip.[2][7]
      • Sepals: Three[3][7] conspicuous[5] ovate[2] to lanceolate,[2][3] spreading sepals, are deeply appressed at the base to the petals.[4] Sepals are often tinged green[4][5] or red,[4] and measure 1.5-[2] 2 cm[2][3] long. Sepals are held horizontally to slightly descending.[4]
      • Petals: Three[3][7] ovate [7] or widely lanceolate[2] petals with a short claw and obtuse apex[7] are deeply[2][3] to brightly[4] yellow, sometimes tinged green[4][5] with abaxial brown spots [2] and are glabrous,[2][7] except for the margins, which are densely ciliate (having a fringe of hairs),[2][3][7][4] Petals are slightly longer than sepals[3] and measure 1.6-[2] 2 cm long.[2][3]
    • Nectary: Crescent-shaped[2][5][3][4] to almost rectangular,[4] depressed,[2][4] (forming a knoblike structure on the outside of each petal)[4] with several transverse, fringed membranes with white or yellow glandular hairs measuring 1/3-2/3 of the width of the petals.[2]
    • Stamens:
      • Filaments: 5mm in length, dilated at the base.[2]
      • Anthers: 3-4mm in length, white to pale yellow.[2]
  • Fruit: Nodding, oblong, winged capsule, measuring 2–3 cm in length.[2]
  • Seeds: Dark brown and irregularly shaped.[2]



The bulbs of Calochortus amabilis are a traditional food of the Kashaya Pomo of California, who bake or boil the bulbs, which are then eaten like baked or boiled potatoes.[8][14] They are a beloved food of the Pomo, locally referred to as "bo".[7]


Calochortus amabilis is cultivated as an ornamental plant by specialty native plant and bulb nurseries, for use in traditional and wildlife gardens, and natural landscaping projects.

  • Hardiness: Hardy,[4][5] particularly if well mulched. In cold areas, it can be grown in an alpine house or an unheated glasshouse.[4]
  • Light : Prefers sun[6] to partial[4][6] or full shade.[4]
  • Soil: Adaptable, but prefers well-drained soil.[6] Prefers a humus-rich, water-retentive medium with up to two thirds organic matter and one third sand, gravel, or grit.[4]
  • Water: Drought tolerant to moderate.[6] In the wild, the plant grows in areas with more than 2.5 cm of rain per week during the growing season. If grown in pots, plants should get 2.2-3.8 cm of water per week, since containers typically dry out more quickly. Complete dryness is needed for the dormant season; some growers dig the bulbs up for the summer to prevent premature autumn growth or bulb rot.[4]
  • Propagation: Sow seed as soon as ripe.[5] Seeds require no treatment to aid germination.[10]
  • Pests and diseases: Trouble free.[5]

In the wild, C. amabilis naturally hybridizes with Calochortus tolmiei.[4]


Amabilis means 'pleasing', 'likeable', or 'lovely'. Calochortus is derived from Greek meaning 'beautiful grass', a reference to the characteristic grass-like foliage of the genus.[15] The full name translates literally to 'lovable, beautiful grass'.[3][15]

The common name "Diogenes' Lantern" is a reference to the Greek philosopher Diogenes, who famously carried a lantern around in broad daylight, claiming he was "looking for a man" (implying that none of the beings he saw around him qualified; sometimes quoted as "looking for an honest man").[16]


  1. ^ "NatureServe Explorer - Calochortus amabilis". NatureServe Explorer Calochortus amabilis. NatureServe. 2022-05-30. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as Baldwin, B. G., D. H. Goldman, D. J. Keil, R. Patterson, T. J. Rosatti, and D. H. Wilken, editors. 2012. "The Jepson Manual: vascular plants of California", second edition. University of California press, Berkeley. ISBN 9780520253124 pp 1380-1381
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Spellenberg, Richard, Professor Emeritus of Biology, New Mexico State University, National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers: Western Region, copyright 2001 by Chanticleer Press, Inc. All rights reserved. Published in the US by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. ISBN 0375402330 pp 576
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am Gerritsen, Mary E. and Ron Parsons, 2007. "Calochortus : Mariposa lilies and their relatives", Timber Press. ISBN 9780881928440. pp 52-54
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Brickell, Christopher "The Royal Horticultural Society A-Z of Garden Plants (Volume 1: A-J)", 3rd ed. Copyright 1996, 2003, 2008 Dorling Kindersley Ltd., London. ISBN 9781405332965 pp 213-214
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Carol Bornstein, David Fross, Bart O'Brien 2007. "California Native Plants for the Garden". Cachuma Press. ISBN 0962850586 (paperback) ISBN 0962850594 (hardcover). pp 212
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Parsons, Mary Elizabeth "The Wild Flowers of California", illustrated by Margaret Warriner Buck. Published by Cunningham, Curtiss & Welch, San Francisco 1912. Copyright William Doxey 1897, copyright Mary Elizabeth Parsons 1902, 1906. (no ISBN for this edition) pp 148-149
  8. ^ a b c Moerman, Daniel E. "Native American Food Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary", first ed. Copyright Timber Press, Inc. 2010. ISBN 9781604691894 (hardcover). pp 67
  9. ^ a b Howell, John Thomas. "Marin Flora: Manual of Flowering Plants and Ferns of Marin County, California", second edition. Copyright 1949, 1970, 1985, University of California Press. ISBN 0520056213 pp 106
  10. ^ a b c Emery, Dara E. "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants", 6th edition (printed 2011). Copyright 1988 Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. ISBN 0916436039. pp 43
  11. ^ a b The Plant List
  12. ^ Flora of North America
  13. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2009. Gold Nuggets: Calochortus luteus Archived 2011-10-04 at the Wayback Machine, ed. N. Stromberg.
  14. ^ University of Michigan at Dearborn: Native American Ethnobotany of Calochortus amabilis
  15. ^ a b Gledhill, David (2008). "The Names of Plants". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521866453 (hardback), ISBN 9780521685535 (paperback). pp 44, 86
  16. ^ "Northern California Wildflowers: Diogenes' Lantern Lily". Lost Coast Outpost.

External links[edit]