Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Sego Lily, Nuttall's Mariposa
Calochortus nuttallii

Family: Liliaceae (lil-ee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Calochortus (kal-uh-KOR-tus) (Info)
Species: nuttallii (nut-AL-ee-eye) (Info)

7 members have or want this plant for trade.

Alpines and Rock Gardens

under 6 in. (15 cm)
6-12 in. (15-30 cm)
12-18 in. (30-45 cm)

3-6 in. (7-15 cm)
6-9 in. (15-22 cm)

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:
Magenta (Pink-Purple)
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds
Suitable for growing in containers

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

Click thumbnail
to view:

By BloomsWithaView
Thumbnail #1 of Calochortus nuttallii by BloomsWithaView

By Lophophora
Thumbnail #2 of Calochortus nuttallii by Lophophora

By BloomsWithaView
Thumbnail #3 of Calochortus nuttallii by BloomsWithaView

By BloomsWithaView
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By BloomsWithaView
Thumbnail #5 of Calochortus nuttallii by BloomsWithaView

By Ally_UT
Thumbnail #6 of Calochortus nuttallii by Ally_UT

By Venustus
Thumbnail #7 of Calochortus nuttallii by Venustus


No positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral Lophophora On Jun 13, 2004, Lophophora from Tokyo
Japan wrote:

Calochortus nuttalli is the eastern-most representative of the genus. It's found " the western parts of North and South Dakota, in eastern Montana, most of Nebraska, western Colorado, extreme northwestern New Mexico, most of Utah, and northwestern Arizona, with several disjunct populations in Nevada." (Callahan, 2001) I have seen some claims of it occuring in California, but as the Jepson Manual doesn't list it, these must be considered with suspicion.

C. nuttalli is a member of Section II. Mariposa, Subsection 7. Nuttalliani (Glands circular-depressed, mostly surrounded by a broad membrane; bulbs with membranous tunics; seeds flat; chromosome base number eight.) (Callahan, "The Genus Calochortus" in "Bulbs of North America", Timber Press, 2001)

Three subspecies have recently been elevated to species rank: C. aureus, C. bruneaunis, and C. panamintensis.

These are plants of sagebrush valleys and foothills, prairies and grasslands, and grow in sand or clay soils, all free-draining and relatively dry in the summer. Found between 700 to 2200 meters, it's one of the most hardy of the genus, and some growers state that it is difficult to maintain in areas with warmer winters. In the wild, the bulbs burst into bloom after wet winters and springs, but may stay dormant if the weather has been too dry. Germination is said to require a long period of chilling.

The plant produces between one and four erect flowers - usually white, but also occaisionally lavender to magenta. The nectary is circular and surrounded by subclavate hairs.

The plant was first collected by the naturalist Thomas Nuttall in 1811 on an expedition up the Missouri River, and thus bears his name. "Sego" is the Shoshone (Ute) word for the plant, also called "Little Life Plant of the Hills" as the bulbs were an important foodstuff for the Navaho, Hopi, Ute, and Paiute Peoples. Although the early Mormons also used it as an emergency food, the story about the Sego Lily saving them from starvation one winter has proved more myth than historical fact. (See Brigham Young University professor William G. Hartley in "The New Mormon History", 1992) Nevertheless, it is the State flower of Utah.

Will add a rating and more culture info if I am able to grow it.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Deweyville, Utah
Moab, Utah

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