An unusual evening rain lily
Last month, finding my first rain lilies of the year — a group of five flowers that included this little gem — satisfied me. They were there; they were lovely; and that was enough.
It never occurred to me that I’d find more rain lilies, and I certainly didn’t expect them to appear almost literally on my doorstep, adding their beauty to a vacant lot across the street.
As I arrived home for lunch yesterday, at least a hundred flowers greeted me. Too widely spaced for a satisfying group portrait, they were numerous enough for their fragrance to spread across the field, lingering in the still air.
Walking among the flowers, I noticed one in particular. Instead of the usual three white petals and three almost identical sepals, the flower was sporting nine. Was it six sepals and three petals? Or three sepals with an extra three petals thrown in as lagniappe? I’m still not sure, but the arrangement was as lovely as it was unusual.
57 thoughts on “Once More, With Fragrance”
What an oddity. I don’t recall ever seeing a rain lily like that. As for counting the components, one thing we can be pretty sure of is that there aren’t four-and-a-half sepals and four-and-a-half petals.
Who knows? Maybe Nature mistook the instructions on this one, and instead of adding 3 + 3, she multiplied 3 x 3. (Did I just make a math joke? Mirabile dictu!)
Mirabile indeed. You must be pleased.
Along those lines, have you ever noticed that sometimes adding is the same as multiplying? A familiar example with two numbers is 2 +2 = 2 x 2, and a more interesting one with three numbers is 1 + 2 + 3 = 1 x 2 x 3. Examples exist for any number of numbers you’d care to consider.
I hadn’t noticed that relationship between adding and multiplying. After some thought, I decided 0 and 2 are the only integers where it works, and I have a suspicion that 1, 2, and 3 are the only three numbers that work. Your reference to examples for “any number of numbers” makes me think there’s an algebraic formula involved.
If you require the numbers to be integers, your choices are pretty limited. If you allow the numbers to be of any sort, you can find an infinite number of examples. There’s not exactly a formula but a consistent method. Suppose you’re looking for an example with four numbers. Pick the first three however you want, say for simplicity 1, 2, and 3. Then you’re looking for a fourth number N such that
1 + 2 + 3 + N = 1 x 2 x 3 x N.
6 + N = 6N.
6 = 5N
N = 6/5 or 1.2.
1 + 2 + 3 + 1.2 = 1 x 2 x 3 x 1.2.
7.2 = 7.2
I get the example. Now, I’m trying it with different numbers. It’s still a work in progress. I’ll be back when I figure it out.
It is an oddity, but lovely indeed, enough to make you want to go home every day for lunch. It would be interesting if someone could weigh in on how this anomaly might have occurred.
I’d bet on a genetic abnormality, myself. It’s common enough to see pink or blue flowers that produce white variants, but plants do other odd things, too. Fasciation’s only one example. There’s even scientific support for the hypothesis that some of Van Gogh’s sunflowers were genetic mutations. I found similar sunflowers down the coast, and wrote about it here, where I included some photos of the odd flowers.
What a great surprise to come home to! Very elegant, and very sporting of that flower to try something a bit different.
At first, I thought the flower hadn’t fully opened. Then, I took a second look and realized the rule of “the same, but different” applied. One thing I’m learning is that the more familiar I become with the ‘usual,’ the easier it is to spot the ‘unusual.’ This one was especially charming.
I used to see them in the empty lots around my house, but houses were built and grass was mowed.
I was especially surprised to see these pop up, because the vacant lot (actually a good-sized field) is mowed on a regular basis to keep it attractive for potential buyers. It seems as though it hasn’t been long since the last mowing, so I’m hoping to be able to collect some seeds from these lilies.
If you can get away with it, you could also dig up the bulbs.
I suppose I could, but I wouldn’t. I’ll collect seed, but digging up native plants isn’t something I’d do — just as I don’t pick the flowers. The one time when digging up and transplanting makes sense is when a piece of land is going to be given over to construction. I get notices every now and then about plant “rescues” being carried out around Houston, and I know people who’ve taken part in those efforts.
Yes, that is the only way I would do it, if the property was being built on. We had a beautiful area near here full of blanket flowers, the road was widened and the flowers are gone. I dug a few rain lilies before the houses near me were constructed. I also go on the greenbelts and move (not dig) passionflower vines away from the mowers.
I love the simplicity of rain lilies, no matter the number of combination of sepals and petals. Your photo beautifully captured the drops of liquid on the petals (sepals?).
Those drops were the result of more rain, rather than dew. In fact, I had to make a run for it while I was photographing these, because of a sudden downpour. Our rain’s been spotty, but significant enough where it’s fallen that I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more of these lilies in the days to come. I’ll be looking.
This is beautiful — I’ve never seen anything like this. The raindrops add to the beauty.
Well, I’ve seen plenty of rain lilies, but I’ve never seen a rain lily like this, either. Just like Julie Andrews’s “raindrops on roses,” the raindrops did make these even more special. Flowers with raindrops or dewdrops are one of my favorite things, too.
Doggone it, I wish this Internet thingy had a scent button!! I’ll bet this lily smelled as beautiful as it looks — and to find an entire field of them, wow!
These lilies have one of the prettiest fragrances in the world. It’s not too sweet, or cloying: it’s just fresh and flowery. I confess I just stood around for a while, enjoying the scent. I wish you could enjoy it, too!
A scent button would be great.
“this little gem” – It truly is a gem! Thanks for showing it to us!
These rain lilies grow in your neighborhood, too. I have some photos of them next to prickly pear cactus on the Willow City Loop. It was the oddest sight in the world — I hardly could believe it.
I’ll have to check next year!
How beautiful Linda, thank you! I’ve never heard of Rain Lilies before, but the shape vaguely reminds me of Iris…
This one looks more iris-like than the species usually does. What leaves they have are grass-like, and when they first appear, they’re nothing more than a stem pushing up from the ground. Here’s one of Steve Schwartzman’s photos of a colony that gives a good sense of how un-iris-like they are.
Wow! They’re as prolific as Crocus in Spring.
I have a scattering of rain lilies in my yard, but not quite that pretty!!
I’d love to find an honest-to-goodness colony of them some day, but finding this group — large enough for the scent to be discernible — was great. Discovering the unusually constructed one made it even better. Here’s hoping that rain-with-a-name heading for your state doesn’t overwhelm you and your lilies — are you in the cone at this point?
I’m afraid we are. It appears the eye should close in about 50 miles north – but then again, you know how unpredictable these storms can be!
I’ll be watching. I was in Homestead about a year after Andrew, and I don’t want anyone to have to experience anything like that again.
I remember Andrew quite well. Two friends and I went down to Homestead to help another friend’s girlfriend. She owned a small nursery, plus a tree was in her bedroom!
No matter the number of petals of this rain lily, it is exquisite in its appearance. I too love the rain lilies as they spring to life after a nice rain.
One of the things I most enjoy about rain lilies is their unpredictability. Once in a while I’ll see them blooming where I’ve found them before, but just as often they’ll pop up in a wholly unexpected place, like the field across from me. We’ve had such a long dry stretch, and it’s clear that the lilies have been lying in wait. I saw another small group of them this afternoon, right in the middle of a road construction site. For a flower that seems so delicate, they’re pretty darned tough.
What was that Shakespearean line about, ‘nor spoil her infinite variety?”
Ah, yes — although, in the case of the rain lilies, age does wither them away, and it happens sooner rather than later. No matter: in the course of their allotted time, they’re beautiful.
Very pretty indeed. I wonder if it is a hybrid of some kind?
Yes, the ‘natural’ kind.
I’m confident that this is simply a genetic variation: a happy accident, if you will. Apart from the extra petals, the plant was identical to those surrounding it: stem, stamens, leaves, and so on. Somewhere I have a photo of a firewheel that looks just like its friends, except it has rows and rows of extra ray flowers. I suspect there are many more variants around than we realize — that’s part of the fun!
It looks so sculpturesque, as if it were praying or about to embrace you.
My first thought was that it was playing peek-a-boo. It’s still there, in the field. Once it begins to fade, I want to get a look at the stamens. It looks to me as though they might be fused, but I didn’t want to pull apart the petals surrounding them.
What a treat for you, and for me via your beautiful photo.
When I visited the O’Keeffe exhibit at the Crystal Bridges museum, I picked up three refrigerator magnets with quotations from O’Keeffe. One says, “Take time to look.” If I’d only glanced at the field and thought, “Huh. Rain lilies,” rather than taking the time to walk across the street and have a closer look, none of us would have seen this flower.
Wordsworth might have done something with these
Maybe he already did. I like this, from “Written in Early Spring”:
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trails its wreath;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
Of course, in that same poem he has a little stanza that might have been written for Nugget, too:
The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure;
But the least motion which they made,
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
Odd but certainly beautiful! I wouldn’t object to walking amongst a hundred of them.xxx
You’d have been in heaven. It was so lovely — both the sight and the scent. I grew up among scented flowers, and really miss having them around.
I had a similar experience with Jack in the Pulpit a few years back. After shooting a few in the Quabbin, I arrived home and discovered three growing right below our Japanese Maple. They were typical, not like your lovely rarity. It’s always a nice treat to find a desired subject right in your own backyard..or in your case vacant lot. May it remain vacant and flowering for years to come.
It’s been interesting to watch the succession of plants that have appeared in that lot. One year, it was filled with pink evening primrose from one side to the other. I’ve seen it filled with a combination of Texas dandelion and verbena, and one year it was all plantain and spiderwort. What’s really odd is that I’ve never seen any repeats. I wonder what else might be lurking under the ground?
Wow, that is unusual. You’d expect some repeat as all, to the best of my knowledge, are persistent plants that are hard to get rid of in a lawn or garden.
Not at all familiar with this plant, so I looked it up. Turns out to be a whole genus of plants I have never heard of – Zephyranthes. Something more to look for if I travel south at this time of year.
There are several native or naturalized Zephyranthes species in the state. There’s a pretty pink one, and an absolutely glorious yellow rain lily. There are some photos of them here, along with a photo of our crinum lily. They are beautiful. There’s a decent photo of a rain lily seed pod on that page, too.
Nice! Thanks for the link.
Honestly, I don’t know which is better, that one oddball flower, so perfect in its own way, or the idea of all those lilies spreading their beauty and scent around the vacant lot. Well, maybe the latter – that is too much to resist, ever.
There’s always a third way. How about admiring one oddball flower while inhaling that rich, sensuous fragrance? That’s the ticket!