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Fritillaria affinis (checker lily, chocolate lily) is a highly variable species in the genus Fritillaria, native to western North America, in California, Klamath Ranges, the north coast ranges, Cascade Ranges, north Sierra Nevada foothills, and the San Francisco Bay Area, north to British Columbia and Idaho.
It grows from a bulb, which resembles a small mass of rice grains. The stems are 10�120 cm tall. The flowers are produced in the spring, nodding, 1�4 cm, yellowish or greenish brown with a lot of yellow mottling to purplish black with little mottling, or yellow-green mottled with purple. The leaves are in whorls.
Its habitat includes oak or pine scrub or open woods and thickets near the coast.
Chocolate lilies are native to the lower elevations of the Coast Ranges of California. They grow mainly in grassland in heavy clay soil. Plants are usually a foot high or less. This field guide information may come across a bit dry, but there is Old California romance in chocolate lily country. Remember that hill with the strange rock formation on top? It is on private property, so we can't go there, but at the base of the hill, there is a cave with Chumash Indian rock paintings. On the way back to the car, I'll show you a tree. It was badly burned in the fire of 1983. It must have been massive before that, for it is figured to be 700 years old. Legend has it that the bandit Joaquin Murrieta would sometimes hide here when things got too intense up north.
March 14th, 2013
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