North Central Washington

The Calochortus Project

Calochortus macrocarpus

An initial photo study of the germination and pollination ecology of Calochortus macrocarpus
Photos by Gary Ott, Twisp, ©1996-2008

Calochortus macrocarpus with pollinator
Calochortus macrocarpus with hoverfly.

These two photos show some of the variety inherent in Calochortus macrocarpus blooms, which average about 4 cm across. Note the bee in the second photo.

Okanogan County, Washington, still has intact populations of Calochortus macrocarpus, however it is never a dominant. Studies in the pollination biology of these "desert tulips" has been ongoing at the outdoor laboratories of Gary Ott, who has documented pollination by the Anthophorid bees (Apidae). None of these bees are known to specialize in Calochortus macrocarpus, but according to Doug Yanega, Illinois Natural History Survey, specialist pollinators are known from the Halictids (Dufourea calochorti), and Andrenids (Perdita calochorti).

Even less known is the biological story of the co-occurrence on these flowers of a Dipterid (fly) which sometimes becomes trapped in the hairs within the Calochortus blooms. This story gets even more interesting. The insects may be parasites on each other, but not enough information is yet available to clarify these initial observations. There are plans to sponsor a Calochortus symposium here in the future, as several Calochortus experts live in the area. Other Calochortus species in Okanogan County include Calochortus lyallii, which is an Okanogan specialty, occasionally becoming dominant in localized patches.