Calochortus nuttallii

Sego Lily


The Basics

Taxonomy: Kingdom - Plantae (plants). Subkingdom - Tracheobionta (vascular plants). Superdivision - Spermatophyta (seed plants). Division - Magnoliphyta(Flowering plants). Class - Liliidae. Order - Liliales. Family - Liliaceae (Lily family). Genus -Calochortus Pursh Mill. Species - Calochortus nuttallii Torr. & A. Gary

Habitat: This species is found in dry, open forests.


Sego-lily (Calochortus nuttallii), The flower of the Sego Lily is white and somewhat tulip-like with a triangular cup-shaped appearance. It has 3 sepals, 3 petals, and 6 stamens, which is a characteristic composition for members of the Lily family. The base of the petals are yellow and are marked with a crescent-shaped purple band or spot. Its stems can be 8 to 20 inches high, have a few grass like leaves, and a thin-coated bulb. It blooms in late spring and early summer.

Edible value

The bulbous root of the Sego Lily was used by the Indians who frequently ground it making a bread from the starchy meal. The bulb is sweet and nutritious and is the size of a walnut. It can be eaten raw or cooked as an emergency food. It tastes like a potato when boiled. The Mormon pioneers made much use of this plant as a source of food. Bears and rodents also consume the bulbs..


The plant is native to a number of western states including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Species Distribution


Silvics of North America
Burns, R.M., and B.H. Honkala. 1990. Silvics of North America (Volume 1: Conifers, Volume 2: Hardwoods). USDA Forest Service Agricultural Handbook 654.

USDA Plants Database
USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

USFS Plant Database
Habeck, R. J. 1992. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.

Flora of North America
Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 19+ vols. New York and Oxford.

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Burke Museum. 2016. Abies amabilis [Online]. University of Washington.