The species is endemic to California ranging from Shasta County to San Diego County, particularly common in the San Gabriel Mountains, the southern part of the Sierra Nevada, and the Coast Ranges between Oakland and Los Angeles. It thrives in the light, sandy soils of a number of habitats, both grasslands and open wooded areas, at 300–2,700 metres (980–8,860 ft) in altitude.
The inflorescence is a loose cluster of 1 to 6 erect, bell-shaped flowers. The flowers are variable in size and palette; they are often showy and intricately patterned. The petals may be a variety of colours from white to pale pink or purple to bright red or orange, sporting a large dark central blotch and a smaller, paler blotch above. They generally have three curving sepals 2 or 3 centimetres long and three oval-shaped, clawed petals up to 5 centimetres long.
- Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
- Bentham, George 1835. Transactions of the Horticultural Society of London, ser. 2 1(5): 412, plate 15, figure 3
- Tropicos, Calochortus venustus Douglas ex Benth.
- Gerritsen, M.E. & Parsons, R. (2007). Calochortus: Mariposa lilies & their relatives: 1-232. Timber press, Inc. Portland, U.S.A..
- Calflora taxon report, University of California @ Berkeley: Calochortus venustus (Butterfly Mariposa Lily, butterfly mariposa)
- Biota of North America Program 2014 county distribution map
- Flora of North America, Calochortus venustus
- Calflora Database: Calochortus venustus (Butterfly mariposa lily)
- Jepson Manual eFlora (TJM2) treatment of Calochortus venustus
- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Profile of Calochortus venustus
- UC Calphotos gallery: Calochortus venustus images
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