The sego lily is a unique species to the western United States. It is native to a number of states including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. Each plant has 1 to 4 flowers, each with three white with a purple/pinkish tinged petals, three sepals, and a reddish/purple band radiating from the yellow base. They grow to be 6-8 inches tall and grow in open grass and sage lands. They bloom in early summer, the flowers can be up to three inches wide. It is also known in parts of the West as a Mariposa lily.
The seeds, bulbs, and flowers have been used by Native American for culinary purposes. Bulbs were roasted, boiled, or made into porridge by the Hopi, Havasupai, Navajo, Paiute, Gosiute, and Ute people. They taught the Mormon pioneers to use the bulb for food when they were in hunger. During the 1940’s, food became very scarce in Utah due to a crop-devouring plague of crickets. The memory of this use, as well as the natural beauty of the flower, made it a choice, after years of Legislature, as the floral emblem of the State. It eventually became the Utah State flower in 1911. They are considered non-toxic to dogs and cats.