South Dakota Native Plant Research
Liliaceae : Calochortus nuttallii

Liliaceae : Calochortus nuttallii


Download Seed: The seed is a yellowish color (84 KB)

Download Mature plant (1.5 MB)

Download Flower (62 KB)

Family Name


Common Name

Sego lily

Native American Name

Lakota: pšíŋ tȟáŋka


Calochortus nuttallii is a perennial herb growing from a membranous coated bulb, 14-44 cm in height. The 2-4, simple, alternate leaves are linear, 8-16 cm long and 1-2 mm wide, reduced in length toward the top. The inflorescence is a single terminal flower {occasionally 2-3), white with a yellow base, the outer whorl of tepals (sepals) are lanceolate, 20-33 mm long and 4-8 mm wide. The inner 3 tepals are obovate with a narrow base, 30-45 mm long and 27-38 mm wide, with a round gland surrounded by a fringed membrane covered with simple and/or branched hairs. The 6 stamens have filaments 5-8 mm long and anthers 5-10 mm long. The fruit is a linear-lanceolate, dehiscent capsule, 3-5 cm long. Sego lilies bloom in June and July on dry prairies and open woods in western South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Sego lily bulbs are palatable and nutritious and have been utilized as a food source by both indigenous and immigrant populations. The flowers are beautiful and attract native butterflies, but the plants are ephemeral. They make a nice addition to open grassy gardens but must remain dry when dormant.

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Collect seed in June-July when the capsules begin to open.

Germination: The seeds need 60-90 day cold treatment for spring planting. Fall sowing will provide good germination.

Vegetative propagation: well established plants will produce bulb that can be transplanted after the plants go dormant. Soils: Well-drained drier soils.

Light: Full sun

Water: Prefers dry conditions

Liliaceae : Calochortus nuttallii