In the 1840’s, when the Mormon pioneers first settled in what is now the state of Utah, they were visited by plagues of locusts which wiped out their wheat, corn, and vegetables creating near-famine conditions for several years. The local Native Americans helped them to survive by showing that a common lily that grew and bloomed in late Spring and early summer could be harvested and eaten raw or cooked and thus the Sego Lily became part of Utah and Mormon history. It is nearly impossible to grow outside of the drylands of Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming as it requires absolutely no moisture after blooming until the bulb returns to a growth pattern in winter to bloom another Spring. The only way we can raise Sego Lilies is to pot them after blooming and set them in a sunny and dry environment for at least five months.
There exist about 35 varieties of Mariposa Lily, as the Sego is also known, across the Rockies and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges from Mexico to Canada. Most are white although a few are lavender and yellow. The root system is a bulb although it can be raised from seed that will create blooms in about five years.
But what happened to the Native American Nation that helped the Mormon settlers in their first years in Utah? The Goshute Indians were original settlers along the western edge of the Great Salt Lake and as the Mormon settlement began to prosper it moved westward creating inevitable conflict with the Goshutes. Cattle were pushed onto Goshute lands and stagecoaches on their way to California were attacked. A treaty was signed in the 1860’s creating a truce with no transfer of lands and the Goshute live today in Skull Valley, Utah, and number about 500 proud individuals.
One last look at the Sego Lily – Utah’s state flower. next we head to Vermont as we near the end of our 50 state wildflower tour. The color of Vermont’s state flower is reddish-pink and I guarantee that everyone has seen this flower and knows it on sight!