Ryan Jordan

Pointedtip Mariposa Lily, Bob Marshall Wilderness (Photo, Sigma DP2)


Pointedtip Mariposa Lily (Calochortus apiculatus), Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana

Sigma DP2, ISO 50, f/2.8, 1/160 sec.

This post is dedicated to my wife Stephanie because her favorite types of photos that I bring back from my trips are those of wildflowers, and the lily is unique because of its ability to retain its beauty in spite of having to grow in the harsh conditions of an arid, rocky forest. The Mariposa Lily is also known as the Madonna of the Rocks, after da Vinci’s famous painting depicting the maternal care of the human race in the midst of earthly turmoil.

The Pointedtip Mariposa (some lazier flower guys call them “Pointed Mariposas” and Patterson may even classify this one as a Cat’s Ear) is one of the most beautiful flowers in Montana because the season in which they look really good is pretty short, only a couple of weeks in late June and early July (no relationship here to my wife, FYI, her growing/beauty season is longer). They’re mostly found in drier, forested valleys that see a bit of sunshine to the forest floor. I’ve seen them only in NW Montana – in the Bob Marshall Complex and the Swan Range, along with the Sawtooths in Idaho and the Pasayten in Washington.

Don’t let those little dark spots scare you off – they’re not bugs, but the nectar glands.

The bulbs are edible, meaty, and probably pretty nutritious. They’re OK raw, and taste like a potato. They’re awfully good when they are briefly boiled, and exceptional stuffed into the belly cavity of a cutthroat trout caught in the same stream that flows below the higher banks where you’ll find the flowers in partial shade of conifers. They’re even better soaked in salt, then roasted in tin foil in the coals of a wilderness cookfire. The petals are less flavorful but make for pretty salads, and the flowerbuds are sweet, and wonderful, like an avalanche lily but more filling. Eat them in mid-June, before the flowers open up.