Hesperocallis undulata

We’ll sneak in one more species from California before turning our attention to plants from other places in the world for a little while. Today’s photograph is courtesy of Ron Long. Ron and I had a good conversation about our recent (separate) travels a couple days ago, after he completed his presentation on Namaqualand to the UBC Friends of the Garden. He also made a trip to California this year, but he went earlier and visited the deserts, particularly Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Thanks for sharing, Ron!

Commonly known as desert lily, Hesperocallis undulata was traditionally placed in the lily family. With molecular techniques, though, there is strong evidence for it to be placed in the agave family (via a circuitous route that saw it jump from the lily family to the daylily family to its own family to the asparagus family). Wikipedia has a summary of its taxonomic placement, along with a reference to the 2004 paper suggesting placement in the Agavaceae.

The Flora of North America entry for Hesperocallis undulata lists its distribution as California, Arizona and Nevada, where it grows in “dry, sandy flats to rocky hills of creosote bush scrub in [the] Mojave and Sonoran deserts”. Desert lily is also noted as a food plant by the Plants for a Future database.

The epithet undulata, as you might expect, refers to the wave-formed leaf margins of the species, a feature prominently shown in many of the photographs at CalPhotos.

I have yet to see this plant in person, but I certainly look forward to the day!

Hesperocallis undulata

11 responses to “Hesperocallis undulata”

  1. Toni Alexander

    I have the good fortune to live in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park every winter. After waiting thru 2 drought years, it was so wonderful to see the desert come to life this year. Especially the desert lilies which abounded. I just got an email that friends hiking in upper canyons were able to identify 71 speciies of plants still in bloom. It’s a heavenly place.

  2. J

    WOW. STELLAR photo of a beautiful plant! Thanks for the daily knockout w/ incredible photography + plant info.!

  3. Julie

    I had the luck to see this once, when I was driving through the Mojave desert, and it was absolutely incredible! Definitely a gorgeous plant.

  4. SandyS

    Thank you for posting Ron Long’s photo of this extremely interesting plant. I, too, wish I could see this unique specimen in person.This is a lovely photo.

  5. Eric Simpson

    I’ve seen this plant many times, though rarely in bloom. I’m sure I’ll see it this weekend as I’m heading to Anza-Borrego (or just “Borrego” as we call it here) in just a few minutes. Nice pic Ron!

  6. elizabeth a airhart

    lovely picture thank you ron
    i can see the deep shadows around the lily
    the sky is so blue and clear am?
    the shadows are deep in the back ground
    may i inquire about the small rosey blooms
    to the left and right of the lily

  7. Krystyna Szulecka

    I am most impressed with the plant and the photograph. I wish I was closer to see and photograph it too.
    My warmest congratulations! Receiving the photo of the day is always highlight in my daily activities not only because of the standard of photographs but also information it contains. Thank should go to all contributors but especially Daniel Mosquin for keeping it on the road without fail.

  8. Janet A.

    Thanks for the lovely desert photo, Daniel. Southern California did have a lovely spring–wish I had been able to get out to Anza-Borrego to see the desert wildflowers. I had to content myself with those here closer to San Diego and north into Riverside County, which were definitely worth seeing. Many hillsides and roadsides were covered with California poppies, brittlebush, goldfields, lupine, etc.
    Elizabeth, the rosey flowers you asked about in the photo are Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa, I believe).

  9. Margaret-Rae Davis

    This is turely a wonderful Photograph. I am amazed at what will bloom in the desert. It is so nice to seeing and learn all in one email.
    Thank you,

  10. Lyleth

    I was very fortunte in that I saw these a couple of years ago in Arizona; I was with a friend who had worked for years for BLM, and had only seen these once. We were at the Organ Pipe Cactus Natl Monument. Since I live in extreme NE CA, where these do not grow, I was most happy to be at the right place at the right time – in fact, I had gone to AZ specifically because my friend said it was to be a great year to see wildflowers.
    Thank you for this, my favorite site to open each morning, and I hate to have to delete them!

  11. Ton Wijnen

    A very interesting plant.
    Who can help me at seeds or a little bulb of this plant?
    Or does any one knows where I can buy a bulb?
    Thank you very much for helping me
    Kind regards
    Ton Wijnen
    The Netherlands

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