Plants 3-18 dm; bulbs ovoid, 4-6 cm. Leaves basal; blade 2-5 dm × 8-15 mm. Racemes 4-18-flowered, 1-3 dm; bracts 1-1.5 cm. Flowers: perianth tube 1.5-2 cm; limb lobes 3-4 cm × 6-10 mm; filaments 2-2.5 cm; anthers golden, 7 mm; pedicel 1 cm. Capsules 12-16 mm. Seeds 5 mm.
Flowering late Feb--May, following infrequent rains. Dry, sandy flats to rocky hills of creosote bush scrub in Mojave and Sonoran deserts; 300--800 m; Ariz., Calif., Nev.
The large, snowy white flowers of Hesperocallis undulata make it one of the showiest desert species, with consequent horticultural use. Native Americans used the bulbs for food (D. E. Moerman 1986), and the early Spanish colonists called the bulbs ajo, due to the garlic flavor.
FNA 2003, Jepson 2012, Kearney and Peebles 1969
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Perennial scapose herbs, to 2 m tall, from deep-set ovoid bulbs 4-6 cm long, with thickened, fleshy roots; herbage blue-green. Leaves: Few and large, forming a basal rosette; blades linear, blue-green, keeled, 20-50 cm long and 8-15 mm wide, with white, strongle undulate margin. Flowers: White, in terminal racemes on scapes 10-30 cm long; racemes with 4-18 flowers, each flower with a papery bract 1-1.5 cm long; flowers large, showy, and fragrant; corolla funnelform, 5-6 cm long, composed of 6 tepals connate into a tube below and distinct above; tepals 5-7 veined with bluish green midstripes beneath. Fruits: Capsules subglobose, 3-lobed, 12-16 mm long, with loculicidal dehiscence (dehiscing longitudinally). Seeds numerous, jet black, flat, to 5 mm long. Ecology: Found on dry, sandy flats to rocky hills of creosote bush scrub in Mojave and Sonoran deserts, from 1,000-2,500 ft (305-762 m); flowers late Feb-May, following infrequent rains. Distribution: w AZ and se CA; south to n MEX (Baja California, Sonora) Notes: This is the only species in this genus. This lovely member of the lily family has typical lily-like flowers and yucca-like leaves with wavy (undulate) margins. Look for the showy and fragrant flowers in desert scrub communities in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts of the southwest. Jepson reports that some unverified records have this species occuring as high as 13,000 ft (914 m). Kearney and Peebles list this species occurring in Mojave and Yuma counties in Arizona, mostly below 2,000 ft. Ethnobotany: Native Americans used the bulbs for food and the early Spanish colonists called the bulbs ajo, due to the garlic flavor. Synonyms: None Editor: LCrumbacher2012, AHazelton 2015 Etymology: Hesperocallis comes from the Greek hesperos, "of or at evening, western, the west," and kallos, "beauty," and translated as "evening or western beauty" because the sun sets in the west; undulata means wavy-margined.