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The Rare Munz’s Mariposa Lily Gets the Spotlight

Jul 28, 2023 | MSHCP, Species

It is hard to share the spotlight with a close relative, but this month we are giving all our attention to the unique and rare Munz’s mariposa lily (Calochortus palmeri var. munzii), a close relative of Palmer’s mariposa lily. Named after Philip Munz, a local botanist who taught at Pomona College, this lily is rarely found outside of Riverside County. The Munz’s mariposa lily requires special care and conservation efforts to ensure its survival. Sightings are few and far between, with known locations including Garner Valley north of Morris Creek, along both sides of the 74, and near Mountain Center.

Munz’s mariposa lily, belongs to the Liliaceae family, and is closely related to the Palmer’s mariposa lily. The lily grows in meadows and moist areas at higher elevations, particularly in the San Jacinto Mountains. The lily features light lavender flowers with bell-shaped petals and purple or yellow hairs at the center. Each petal measures approximately 2 or 3 cm, and the plant can sprout 10 to 20 cm in height. The Munz’s mariposa lily’s inviting appearance and light lavender hue make it a standout among neighboring vegetation. Often found in the open spaces alongside redshank (Adenostoma sparsifolium) and big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). As beautiful as the flower is, it’s important to give this flower ample space to grow and thrive.

The lily blooms May through July, when its flowers are on full display. As a non-vegetatively producing plant, the Munz’s mariposa lily relies on pollinators for reproduction. Various factors including trampling, overgrazing, road maintenance, development projects, and invasion of exotic species (such as the stubborn stinknet) threaten the lily’s existence.

Under the MSHCP, 33,470 acres of suitable land within chaparral, meadow, and montane coniferous forest habitats at higher elevations are identified for protection in effort to ensure this plant can thrive.

The Munz’s mariposa lily is one of 63 plant species the MSHCP protects for future generations. The RCA’s streamlined project review process coupled with a robust long-term monitoring strategy for Covered species facilitates transportation and other projects while diligently safeguarding sensitive plants and wildlife occurring throughout western Riverside County.