Once More, With Fragrance

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.


Comments always are welcome.
Evening rain-lily (Cooperia drummondii, or Zephyranthes chlorosolen) has been moved from the Lily family (Liliaceae) to the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae). The specific epithet ‘drummondii’ recognizes Thomas Drummond, an 18th century Scottish naturalist.

57 thoughts on “Once More, With Fragrance

  1. 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.

    1. 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!)

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

            Sure enough,

            1 + 2 + 3 + 1.2 = 1 x 2 x 3 x 1.2.
            7.2 = 7.2

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

  3. 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?).

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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!

    1. 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!

    1. 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.

    1. 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?

      1. 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!

          1. 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!

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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!

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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?

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.