Last summer I posted about the wildflowers on Josie’s Ridge, specifically clematis. This summer’s rock star is the Sego lily, and her lil’ buddy the Flower Crab Spider.
The Sego lily (Calochortus nuttallii) is one of 70 species in the Calochortus genus (calochortus derives from Greek, meaning beautiful grass) found up and down the Americas from British Columbia to Guatemala. This wild lily is both elegant and tasty – its edible bulbs have long been part of the diet of many tribes like the Hopi and Navajo. It’s the state flower of Utah, mainly because the Mormon pioneers discovered this nutritional fact and didn’t die of starvation. The word sego is the Southern Paiute name for the bulb itself, according to Merriam-Webster.
I have never eaten a Sego lily bulb, but I do see these flowers all over hillside trails around Jackson Hole in mid-July, and they are exquisitely beautiful. Also, these lilies always seem to have tiny chartreuse spiders tiptoeing around on their stamens and petals. I finally got a photo of one pretty arachnid and sent it off to two super-helpful plant identification websites, hoping for a name. I got answers within only a day or two! For free!
You can read my question (basically: what is this spider??), and the speedy response I got (it’s most likely Misumena vatia) at the Land Grant University’s eXtension website here. This was so fun I’m trying to come up with more questions to ask!
I also sent my spider ID question to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s help site Mr. Smarty Plants, which has to be the best cutesy name ever. Mr. Smarty Plants couldn’t give me a definitive answer because hey, he isn’t Mr. Smarty Spiders, which I understand. BUT I still got a great list of insect identification websites.
Misumena vatia, pleased to meet you! I’m fascinated that you use flowers as your hunting grounds. And you can change color to suit your flower! There you are hanging out on some yarrow this time, eyeing your prey. Eight eyes on the prize, spidey!
Photo of Sego lily and her flower crab spider by me.
“Misumena vatia qtl2” by Quartl – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons