Globe Lilies, AKA Fairy Lanterns (Calochortus albus) growing along the Kirk Creek Trail.
We’ve always kind of preferred the name fairy lantern, since these flowers definitely resemble delicate paper lanterns, both in their shape and in the way they hang so gracefully from their stalks. As they’re currently in the middle of a vigorous bloom, we’re making them our Wildflower of the Week.
Fairy lanterns are members of the Lily family (the Liliaceae) and reside in the genus Calochortus (derived from the Greek Kalos, meaning beautiful, and Chortus, meaning grass). While the members of this genus may not be real grass, there can be no argument about their beauty. Visual stunners like star tulips and mariposa lilies are also members of the Calochortus. Albus, of course, means “white,” which is appropriate for most globe lilies (although there is a pink variety that grows in our area).*
Like many in its genus, C. albus is exclusively Californian, growing throughout most of Alta California and the northernmost portions of Baja. It does not occur elsewhere. In fact, nearly 30 species of Calochortus have been recognized as endemic to California.
Calochortus bulbs are edible and, in fact, saved the lives of Mormon settlers in the Salt Lake Valley during their initial years of crop failure (which is why the Sego Lily is now Utah’s official State Flower).
C. albus is widespread in our area. Look for it in shady spots everywhere from Garland and Pt. Lobos to Big Sur and the Santa Lucia mountains.
C. albus at Garland Regional Park
* And, yes, you Harry Potter fans, Albus Dumbledore does mean “White Bumblebee.”