Sunday Nature Photography Vol. #1
Given that it’s about 10 °F here today, I thought a desert species would be appropriately warming. I give you the Sego Lily (sometimes called “Nuttall’s Sego Lily”), Calochortus nuttallii Torr. & A. Gray. Like most desert flowers, it blooms only briefly in the spring and is the state flower of my soon-to-be home state, Utah.
This picture was taken over Memorial Day weekend 2010, at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah. Utah had an unusually cool and wet spring last year and we were told by locals that there were more wildflowers blooming that spring than any in recent memory. I spotted this lovely blossom while I was tramping after Parasaurolophus fossils with Laelaps. I didn’t know at the time it was the state flower (although I really should have!).
The Sego Lily is found in dry habitats of moderate elevation (typically 4-6,000 ft elevations), preferring sagebrush foothills and Ponderosa pine stands. It’s typically thought of as a desert flower, although it can be found throughout the foothills of the Rockies from Oregon to New Mexico. When not in flower, it’s not much to look at – just a cluster of tough, grass-like leaves that are easy to pass by.
But the true value of the Sego Lily lies underground, in the large, moisture-filled bulb that is edible and high in sugar and starch. These bulbs literally saved the lives of the early Mormon pioneers, who found themselves starving shortly after arriving in the Salt Lake Basin in 1847. They were able to use the roots like potatoes or make them into porridge to keep them alive until they could start farming.