Kamchatka fritillary chocolate lily Indian rice Kamchatka-lily Black sarana Black lily Riceroot fritillary Kamchatka missonbells Northern riceroot
*ITIS lists the common name of Fritillaria camschatcensis as Kamchatka fritillary and lists no other common names. While I normally follow ITIS taxonomy and nomenclature for everything in this guide, I have gone with the popular name, Chocolate lily. In Alaska, I have never heard it called anything else, and most articles on the flower also call it the chocolate lily.
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Fritillaria camschatcensis is a perennial forb/herb that grows from a large, scaly bulb. The bulb has 6-15 large bulbs, somewhat resembling garlic, and is subtended by 30-190 smaller rice-grain bulblets. The stem grows between 20 and 40 cm (8-16 inches) tall and has 2-3 whorls of 5-9 leaves per node about 4-10 cm long. The leaf blades are narrowly to broadly lanceolate.
The inflorescence comprises one to several spreading to nodding flowers with dark greenish brown to brownish purple tepals. The flowers are bell-shaped and the tepals are fairly uniform in shape and may have yellow spots. The flower has a foul smell and is commonly pollinated by flies. The flowers have 6 stamens and 1 green, 3-chambered pistil.
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For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.
Native Alaskan and Canadian communities have numerous uses for the chocolate lily as both an ornamental flower and a food source. Typically, the bulb is dried and used in fish or meat stews, pounded into a flower, or boiled and eaten with sugar and grease or oil. The flower is used as a ceremonial item by tribes in British Columbia as its appearance signals the New Year and is used to decorate costumes for the New Year ‘flower dance’. There are no known medicinal uses for the plant. Because the flower is showy and it is easy to transplant, the chocolate lily is frequently used as an ornamental plant.
Distribution and Habitat
The distribution of Fritillaria camschatcensis in North America is primarily in Alaska, Yukon Territory, British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. The plant is considered critically imperiled in Oregon and imperiled in Washington and the Yukon Territory. The chocolate lily is also found in Japan and western Siberia. It tends to live only in coastal areas and is rarely found inland. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) database also lists some isolated instances in Korea, Norway, and Sweden.
The habitat of the chocolate lily is varied. It can be found in mountain meadows, moist tideflats, rocky shores or stream banks, and open forests. It is most often found along or near coasts and in moist soils.