A Different Amarillo

 Mexican water lily ~ Nymphaea mexicana


Texas is home to four native species of water lily. Nymphaea ampla, though common in Mexico and the Caribbean, is quite rare, while N. odorata, a white lily that floats on the water’s surface, and N. elegans, the so-called blue water lily, are relatively common.

Our fourth lily is uncommon enough that I’d never seen one until I discovered a pair blooming in a pond at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. The Spanish name for Nymphaea mexicana — lampazo amarillo, or yellow water lily — brings to mind the well-known Texas city. According to the Texas State Historical Association:

The settlement was originally called Oneida but was by majority consent renamed Amarillo after the nearby lake and creek. These natural features had been named by New Mexican traders and pastores, probably for the yellow soil along the creek banks or the yellow wildflowers that were abundant during the spring and summer.
Charles F. Rudolph, editor of the Tascosa Pioneer, blamed the [Fort Worth and Denver City Railway] employees for ignoring the word’s Spanish pronunciation; in 1888 he prophetically stated, “Never again will it be Ah-mah-ree-yoh.” Most of the town’s first houses were painted yellow in commemoration of the name change.

Unfortunately, when the Texas Legislature designated an official state water lily in 2011, it chose a cross between Nymphaea mexicana and another cultivar known as Nymphaea ‘Pink Starlet’ rather than one of our natives. Nymphaea ‘Texas Dawn,’ created by Ken Landon in 1985, is a lovely flower, but like the designation of the crape myrtle as our official state shrub, its selection clearly was influenced by factors other than its inherent beauty.

No matter. Lampazo amarillo will be blooming by morning, and it’s that amarillo that’s on my mind.


Comments always are welcome.

65 thoughts on “A Different Amarillo

    1. Well, these things happen. I suspect there wasn’t any sort of real competition; someone just had the idea to make the cultivar the state water lily, and — it was so! No matter. I’m just happy to know that the yellow water lily exists, and that I may come across it again.

  1. Water lilies, it seems to me have a specific charm, not found in other plants, although all have intrinsic appeal of course. But a pond bedecked with water lilies always has a unique allure, and it is no surprise that impressionist painters found such a scene worthy of their palette. A friend of mine has a large pond in front of the house, and the lilies are already starting to appear. By the end of summer they will cover most of the surface and Green Herons will pick their way across the lily pads. It is such a joy-inducing sight; it thrills me very time.

    1. Your mention of the green herons crossing the lily pads reminded me of some wonderful photos a friend made of purple gallinules doing the same thing. There’s an east Texas pond I visit that thickens up with water lilies every year; I’ll have to make a point of stopping and watching, to see if I can spot some birds among them. It surprises me to know that you have water lilies, too; what a treat a pondful of them must be after the long, cold winter.

    1. It’s possible that, had someone suggested a native water lily to the legislature, they might have chosen one as our state aquatic plant. But, the ‘Texas Dawn’ fans got there first, and successfully lobbied on behalf of their flower. At least the yellow water lily is a little better known now, since it was one of the ‘parents’ of ‘Texas Dawn.’

        1. Even without a photo, that’s wonderful that you got to see the behavior. The fact that it wasn’t an anole just confirms what I read — that all of them do it.

    1. There were two of them that day, and the pair certainly were eye-catching among the multitude of white lilies. I would have liked to shoot from some other angles, but since I can’t walk on water, I couldn’t make that happen!

  2. This one’s truly a beauty — such a cheery yellow! And your photo is so clear that I almost feel I can touch it. I’ve only been in the Texas Panhandle once — way back when I was attending a former colleague’s wedding — but it kind of reminded me of the Midwest, with its flatness. Of course, we don’t have dust devils!!

    1. And I always think of the Panhandle as cotton territory, but I glanced at a Texas A&M page, and found that corn, sorghum and wheat are traditional crops up there, so even that’s a connection to the midwest. It can be dry and dusty, though — and windy. I recently read that the windiest large city (population 100k or more) in the United States is Amarillo, with an average wind speed of 12.6 mph. How’s that for a bit of trivia?

      1. That’s great, but we often have wind speeds of more than 12.6 mph, especially during storms! The wind tends to die down a bit a night, though.

  3. I never even knew Texas had lilies. Ever since I started reading your blog, I’ve come to realize I really don’t know much about Texas!!

    1. We’re just full of surprises, GP! That’s one reason I enjoy roaming the state so much, and am looking forward to being able to do more of it. I’m constantly realizing how little I know about the place, myself.

  4. I see from Wikipedia that Paul Stafford, one of the two people credited as creators, “conceived the song after playing with his band at a rodeo in San Antonio, Texas, and then driving back to his home in Amarillo, Texas.”

    Bill Carr says that this water lily is an “aquatic perennial, native to southern and coastal Texas; widely cultivated elsewhere. Introduced into Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake in 2012.” Then maybe I’ll get to see one out of its proper habitat. It’s good you found yours as a native.

    1. That’s quite a drive from San Antonio to Amarillo; there would be plenty of time to write a song, and he came up with a good one.

      This gem truly was a serendipitous find. I’d gone to the ponds looking for other aquatic plants, like your pickerelweed. There was none of that, but the water lilies were thick, and this yellow one was the prize of the day.

  5. This is just beautiful. I do love a good waterlily. Can’t paint them for squat but I love looking at them. Ah, to be Monet! Well, this one is a beauty and of course beautifully captured! Lovely work as always, Linda!

    1. I realized after reading your comment that I tend to think of Monet’s lilies as blue, pink, and white, but when I looked I found several of his paintings that show yellow lilies. They are so beautiful. I’d love to find on on a clear, sunny day when the water reflects the blue of the sky.

      I thought of you today when I heard that the cafés in Paris have re-opened. I laughed, too. Patrons are being asked to maintain a three-foot distance, rather than six. Maybe their cafés are smaller!

  6. I think water lilies are magical, like cattails. I may have that feeling because I first saw both of them from a canoe as a child and everything I was seeing at the time was wondrous. I still get that feeling when I see either of them now–and it isn’t as though that’s infrequent. Lovely pictures.

    1. I know that experience. For me, it involves lilacs and bridal wreath spirea, although I see those far less often than I’d like. The same day I photographed this water lily, I noticed that the cattails are in fine form: plump, smooth, and still perfectly formed. Before long, they’ll be ready for this sort of fun!

  7. I don’t recall ever seeing a yellow water lily before. They are much more striking than the whites I’m most familiar with.

    The Amarillo pronunciation story (and great George Strait song) remind me of Blanco, a major street in San Antonio as well as a Hill Country town and county. When I first moved to San Antonio back in the early 1990s I was talking to a native and pronounced the street name in proper Spanish. I was quickly told that it sounded like “Blank-oh”, not the “Blahnc-oh” of proper Spanish.

    If you want to know if a San Antonio business used a local or outside advertising firm for their TV ads, just listen to the street name pronunciations. The biggest clues are Blanco and Huebner, pronounce “Heebner” by locals and “Hyoobner” by the outside firms.

    1. That color certainly is eye-catching. It took me a few seconds to process what I was seeing when I came across them; at first, I assumed they must have been some other kind of plant.

      We have the same phenomenon here in Houston. You always can spot a new traffic reporter because of the way they pronounce ‘San Felipe,’ ‘Bissonet,’ and ‘Kuykendahl.’ Of course, for real fun there’s Refugio, Llano, and Leakey. I’d forgotten about Huebner. That’s a good one.

  8. What’s in a name? I never forget my first view of the lily garden in Ubud, Bali. It was mind blowing. Large carps would swim among its giant leaves and pick off juicy insects. The flowers were stunning.

    1. Water lilies and Bali just seem to go together. Were they a whole rainbow of colors? I’ve seen white, blue, and yellow myself, and pink in photos from others. I can’t imagine them combined in the same pond; it must have been marvelous.

  9. Lovely photo of the water lily. Thank you for the info. I do not understand why in the name of Pete non natives were selected to represent Texas. There are so many beautiful and unusual trees and plants. Some folks on that panel clearly missed the mark, especially the state tree.

    1. Well, the story of the selection’s in the link up above, where the concurrent resolution that was introduced in the Texas legislature’s there in its entirety. Once ‘Texas Dawn’ was hybridized and began winning international prizes, people who were proud of the developer and the accolades asked the legislature to make the designation, and they did. The same thing happened with the crape myrtle. I suppose the lesson is, if there’s a category to be filled — official state whatever — get there first, and have plenty of supporters!

    1. I had water and a boardwalk that constrained the ways I could approach it, but I was happy enough with the way it turned out. What’s a little amusing is that I made a special trip to see if I could get some better photos before posting, and the lilies were gone. Only a few very sad ones lay across the lily pads. I don’t know if my timing was wrong, or the day was too cloudy for them to open, or if someone had shown up and eaten them all! I’ll give it another try one of these days.

  10. That’s a beautiful yellow. I kind of get a kick out of how people pronounce words, and change them. I was recently near a little town called New Berlin, and the people there surely don’t pronounce it the way they would in Germany, it’s pronounced as one run-together word, with the emphasis on the “Ber,” or maybe that’s “Brr” I don’t know what the winters are like there.
    I tried to look up why the town was called Oneida, one of the tribes that made up the Iroquois Confederacy. They’re still in central New York, where they were down to a 32-acre plot on their ancestral territory, but then opened a very successful casino, and have been buying land and will create a much bigger reservation.
    I also ran into that tribe again in Wisconsin, where the biggest group of them moved in the 1800s.
    There’s a town and county named after them.

    1. It is a pretty yellow, and the color of its pads is a nice complement. They’re not such a bright green, but a kind of gray-green, and the spots on them are purple. It seems the pads are more spotted when they’re young, and less so as they age.

      When I hear ‘Oneida,’ I think of my mother’s silverplate. The ‘good silver’ only came out on Sundays and holidays. The rest of the time, we used the Oneida. I looked up the company, and sure enough: it arose out of the utopian Oneida Community, which was established in Oneida, New York, in 1848. Oneida Community Ltd. was one of the earliest joint-stock companies in the United States, and it began production of silver-plated flatware and hollow-ware in 1899.

      I hope the tribe’s gamble pays off as well!

      1. When your mom was using Oneida flatware, she could also have set the table with Iroquois china, made in Syracuse. Oneida had a long, successful run, but finally went bankrupt about 15 years ago. Then some good news, some of the employees rebooted on a smaller scale, and went back to manufacturing locally, instead of Asia & Mexico. They supply the military bases and the White House. I’m glad they’re making the silverware in the same town again. The Oneida casinos, in NY and Green Bay, WI, are both very successful.

        1. That’s really great to hear. It’s not often a company can get itself going again, and being able to bring production back to NY, even on a smaller scale, is good. Have your casinos been able to open yet? We only have a couple, and as far as I know they haven’t opened, but Louisiana’s are in business again.

          1. Not yet but things are beginning to thaw out, restaurants can now have outside seating, etc. Upstate was hit much more lightly than NYC. The Cayuga tribe already re-opened their bingo hall. But NYS also has non-Indian casinos now, there’s one only a few miles from my village, but that’s still completely closed up.

      1. I knew you would know the song, but perhaps not this performance. Peter Kay has done it more than once. The first time it brought a resurgence over here for Tony Christie.

        1. Not only that, I found that Paddy McGuinness produced a parody titled, “Is this the way to Barnard Castle?” using the same tune. It took me a while to sort out what that was all about, but I think I have it now, and I even know who Dominic Cummings is!

    1. Lucky you! I’ve never seen a pink one, apart from photos. Until I started looking for information on this yellow one, I didn’t realize that there’s a garden featuring an “International Waterlily Collection” in San Angelo. It looks like quite a place, and it’s just south of you: “just south” in a Texas sense, that is. I wouldn’t make a special trip to see it, but if I’m ever heading up to the Panhandle, it would be worth a detour.

  11. What a gorgeous rich yellow that flower is. Ours, that I see, are usually white or pink.

    I’d love to see a photo of the blue-flowering variety if you have an opportunity to photograph it. :)

    1. As a matter of fact, I do have a photo of N. elegans that I’ll be posting in a few days. It’s an older flower, and has begun to turn a bit white, as they do with age, but the blue still is noticeable and quite pretty. I mentioned to some others that I’ve never seen a pink lily in person, although I have seen photos of them. Since they aren’t native here, I suppose I’d have to find a garden that includes them in a display.

  12. Oh, that’s beautiful, such a sunshine yellow. I have two small butter-yellow waterlilies in my pool, ‘cos I love that colour against the dark surface. Not heard that song before. Nice melody, but very cavalier attitude to females!

    1. Ah, shoot. There’s a passle of Texas females who’d be happy to be left by George Strait. Both he and the song are iconic here; I never hear the song without being back on the road at midnight, cruising along to wherever, happy as can be. The song shines best at night, like your yellow lilies against the dark water. Funny as it sounds, it’s one of those songs that always reminds me how much I love Texas!

  13. That yellow is gorgeous. N.odorata of course is the one I see here outside of planted pond gardens.
    What always comes to mind when I hear Amarillo is this. A bit different than George Strait’s song.

    1. I’d forgotten Emmylou’s version! It is a different mood, but a great song. I think it was included on Elite Hotel, one of the first of her albums that I bought. Of course, when it comes to traveling songs, her version of “Leavin’ Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” can’t be beat. When I hit the road for Cajun country, that’s going to be on the playlist. “The highway goes on forever…”

  14. The yellow is really opaque. I’ll be on the look-out here to see if I see it. The ‘Nelumbo’ genus is the one I’d like to see and it’s called ‘Nelumbo lutea’, and it’s in Florida too. They’re just so hidden apparently. They look like water lilies too.

    1. We have that lotus here, although not in the spots I frequent. I know where to find it, it’s just a matter of getting myself there. It’s a little too far for before or after work, and the traffic’s ghastly between here and there on the weekend. I need to get caught up enough that I could take a day in the middle of the week. If I manage it, you’ll certainly see the photos — I hope you can find either the lotus or this water lily, too.

  15. I’m always a little amazed to see a flower grow from water, as if having one grow from dirt is any less amazing. Water Lilies and Lotus also seem to have a certain luminance.

    1. Despite appearing to grow right out of the water, the roots of water lilies, are embedded in the soil beneath a pond’s surface. The rhizomes can be planted directly into the muddy soil at the bottom of a pond or, in landscape ponds with an artificial bottom, they can be rooted in pots filled with aquatic potting soil, or a garden soil with substantial clay. Who knew?

      It never had occurred to me that those lily pads do more than provide a nice spot for dragonflies to rest; that’s where the photosynthesis happens!

  16. This has been on the screen waiting for a ‘catch-up’ moment.. laptop battery almost gone so again hurried.

    Loved this image, soothing soothing! Loved the concept of ‘A different Amarillo’ though I, of course thought of the color first, and not the city or the song. The song has been in my head since you posted this, gracias a Linda!

    Also loved your trip back to the Delta post from earlier, and I followed the link to the older post. I was ‘home’ without having to worry about Covid dangers of air travel!

    Sending this before the computer shuts down, but wanted to give you a smoke signal!

    1. I can’t believe it took me so long to learn that ‘amarillo’ means yellow. When I did, it made me unreasonably happy; we need more places named for colors, I think. It couldn’t hurt, anyway.

      I was looking at some of my other photos from Mississippi, especially from around the Doro Plantation, and laughing at what I’d captured there; flowers that I couldn’t identify at the time are old friends now, and the sight of white wisteria draped through the trees just knocks me out. I wish I could go back again in spring and capture the area anew. It’s a little sad to look at such — inadequate — photos and know how much better I could have portrayed them today. On the other hand, that’s what practice will do for us — right?

      Stay safe and sane — and keep on creating!

      1. You made me laugh with your opening sentence! So now, thanks to you, I am eating lunch, typing and have sparkles in my eyes and smile on my face!

        “We need more places named for colors…” – what a great quote! Perhaps your quote will lead a future art post.

        The wisteria blossoms often remind me of the equally short-lived Black Locust Blossoms. When writing that sentence, I opened a search to find an image and found a surprise – the latter blossoms are edible! Now I’m wondering about a cousin species here in Ecuador.. Hmmm, an inquisitive mind is never bored!

        At least a month ago I wrote a friend in Clarksdale and asked her to keep an eye out for wisteria in bloom (future painting) and she wrote the next week and said, ‘you won’t believe this but on my way to work I looked over and there was wisteris in bloom!’

        Yes, it’s nice to gain knowledge, and I’ve learned so much recently from the – surely thousands of photos of the gallinules! I also learned about the water lilies, and now can spot the ones about to sink and know that the fresh flowers are high on the stem and the older ones — well are just tired of being perky!

        Hope your day is a good one, dear Amiga!

        1. Being consistently perky can wear out a person as well as a water lily! I’ve never been precisely perky myself, but I’ve known a couple of women who made an art of it, and they could wear me out.

          Wisteria’s the southern answer to lilacs, I think. If I live so long, I’m going to get back to the midwest before I die, just to smell the lilacs. I keep looking for something that replicates the scent, but as so often happens, candles, colognes, sachets, or powders just can’t do the trick. I keep sniffing, but I’ve yet to find a true lilac scent.

          I’ve never heard of black locust, but the fritters sound wonderful — like squash blossom fritters.

          1. “If I live so long, I’m going to get back to the midwest before I die, just to smell the lilacs.”
            That sounds like the opening line of a novel, a bit like Rebecca!

            Spent noon until almost 2 at the nearby park. The sun was bashful but the birds were not. Great outing, and now I have surely 600 or more images to wade through tonight! The Saffron Finches, Blue-gray Tanagers and Eared Doves were having a splash party near a running water hose! Then the iguanas were basking, the gallinules foraging and Striated Herons seemed to be everywhere. The best was one cute Green Kingfisher, which also allowe some good shots.

            1. What an afternoon! I think it’s a project when I bring home a couple hundred photos: you’re going to be one busy woman. But I suspect you have the same experience as me. It can be as pleasurable to relive the moments as it was to be there, and sometimes it’s even better, since a little time and distance can let us see things we missed in the moment. Enjoy!

    1. They are lovely, aren’t they? I know that people with water gardens have many-colored lilies, but I think these yellow natives are splendid. I’m glad you enjoyed seeing it!

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