Summer, Rising

White water lily ~ Nymphaea odorata

Today, rising creeks and rivers are afflicting some parts of our state, but soon enough the rains will depart and summer will arrive: its rising heat and humidity making February’s freeze seem even more improbable.

A different sort of rising is taking place in area freshwater ponds and lakes. This weekend, I found three species of native water lily thriving at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. Michael Eason describes the white water lily shown above, Nymphaea odorata, as the most freeze-tolerant of our native species.

Lampazo amarillo, or yellow water lily ~ Nymphaea mexicana

On the other hand, the yellow water lilies also seem to have prospered through the winter months; a dozen or so already were in bloom.

Tropical water lily ~Nymphaea elegans    

The tropical water lily doesn’t float on the water’s surface, but rises above it on peduncles, or stems, several inches in length. Its sepals are marked with the same colors as its leaves, which are purple on the bottom and green above.

The genesis of one common name for Nymphaea odorata, ‘alligator bonnet,’ is easy to understand. Innumerable alligators, both young and old, were cruising among these flowers; its easy to imagine one of the creatures rising to the surface, flower-bedecked and smiling.


Comments always are welcome.

61 thoughts on “Summer, Rising

  1. Wow. Your water lily shots are stunning. I love that you were able to combine all three types into a single posting so we are able to compare them. Were there any pink water lilies in bloom?

    1. I’ve never seen a pink water lily, Mike. We have four native species, including these three, and all are white or yellow. There are businesses that supply variously colored water lilies to people for their ponds and water gardens, but even the cultivar that ended up being the Texas state water lily is yellow.

        1. I found there are dozens of pink cultivars, but on the GoBotany site I did find one native that blooms in both pink and white: Nymphaea tuberosa. I think I remember Steve Gingold posting photos of pink ones from his location in Massachusetts in the past. They certainly are pretty, but I much prefer yellow and white over pink, so I don’t mind that we don’t have them.

          1. Yes they do sometimes develop as pink and you are correct that I have posted them when I am lucky enough to find one. You used one of mine in a post a while back.

            1. So many blog posts, such a short memory. As soon as I read that, I remembered it. Without looking, I think I remember I used one you photographed near the shore, with a tree in the photo. I’ll go look in a bit, but right now we have heavy weather heading for us, and I’m trying to get as much done as I can before the power goes out.

            2. I hope your power did not go out and the weather did not cause much harm. Yes, it was at the base, more or less, of a tree in a roadside pond.

  2. Never having come across the Spanish word lampazo before, I looked it up. One translation was ‘burdock.’ Another, designated nautical, was ‘swab, mop.’ In some Spanish-speaking regions it designates ‘a whipping.’ Hmm. I wondered if there’s a connection to the name of a Texas town about an hour north of me, Lampasas. On a site about the history of Lampasas County I found that “the name is of Indian origin meaning ‘Water Lily.’ At one time Lampasas was an Indian settlement and the streams of water surrounding it were dotted with water lilies, and this suggested to the Indian the name ‘Lampasas.'” So there seems to be confusion between a native name for a water lily and a similar-sounding Spanish word that designates a different kind of plant.

    1. Here’s another bit of speculation for you to ponder. We have a different yellow aquatic plant called ‘spatterdock’ (Nuphar advena, previously Nuphar lutea). Its flower is similar in shape to that of burdock, and Eason says it’s “found throughout the Edwards Plateau, east into Louisiana, north into Oklahoma, occasional in South Texas.”

      Might it be that the spatterdock and yellow water lily were somehow conflated, and the terms became interchangeable, much as ‘sunflower’ is applied to species like rosinweeds?

    1. It’s hard to realize in two weeks we’ll be in June. While your garden may be ‘behind,’ I’ve been seeing coneflowers, beebalm, and every sort of early summer flower here and there. I just wish this rain would stop — after today, I’ll bet you do, too!

    1. Thank you, Derrick. They were rather far out in the water, so I had to use my 70-300mm lens, but it worked out. I found them a little late in the day; now that I know they’re blooming, I’ll try to get there earlier.

  3. Just looking at these you can sink into the solitude and quiet – be engulfed by the sleepy heat…without swatting any annoying gnats or mosquitoes. That top image is beautiful.
    (Batten down the hatches this afternoon? Understand some storm chasers are staging in the area)

    1. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a full dose of repellent was necessary during this little excursion. Those darned mosquitoes have recovered, and are ready to make up for lost time. I do like the top image. At first I wasn’t sure I liked the flower and leaf touching, or the little bits of duckweed on the left, but the more I looked, the more I liked. The threads of vegetation just under the water gave me the impression of a cracked mirror.

  4. thanks for these. the yellow is lovely. I tried growing water lilies. I had one a friend gave me that she collected on a trip to Massachusetts where she was from but it never bloomed for me. bought a pink one and managed to get it to bloom one time one year and never again after that. I gave up. I imagine they just didn’t get enough sun.

    1. I don’t know a thing about growing them. I only know that the people from Nelson Water Gardens in Katy are on the radio gardening shows nearly every week, and from the conversations it sounds as though a lot of people are at least trying to grow water lilies. From listening, I did learn that there are shade tolerant varieties that can get by with as little as three hours of sunlight each day. If you ever find yourself short of a project (!) it might be worth trying them.

  5. Linda, I can’t help smiling over the mental image of an alligator rising to the water’s surface crowned by water lilies! And you know, any of the colors you’ve captured here would bedeck them strikingly.

    1. It’s like something that belongs in a children’s book, isn’t it? Remember the elephants and hippos in tutus in Disney’s Fantasia? It’s that kind of image, and it’s wonderful. The flowers would have to land on the gators heads by accident, though. I’m certainly not going to try to attach one.

      By the way — I thought of you Saturday when I drove past field after field filled with tasseled corn! I have no idea what that’s about, but a good bit of corn is harvested in July, so I guess things must be getting back to normal in the corn patch.

  6. Water lilies always remind me of my youth, of having swim past them to get to the deeper waters where we had a floating dock. Glad we don’t have any alligators up here. For the life of me I can’t remember what color the lilies were. White or pink and all those old black and white photos don’t tell me much.

    1. Isn’t it funny what we remember and what we don’t? And you’re right — I have some black and white photos from my childhood that are remarkably evocative, but there’s something about a touch of color that aids memory in a different way.

      It must have been wonderful, having that floating dock. Those are a part of some of the camps here, and probably a few ranches with private lakes, but I never knew anything but swimming pools and the occasional creek.

  7. I have finally caught up with here on this blog, Linda. I have enjoyed all these beautiful posts and photos of unfolding spring, and your educational commentary. Thank you!

    1. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed them, Lavinia. I feel as though spring is getting away from me: more and more flowers are blooming, and the photos to share are piling up. I can’t possibly show them all, but there’s just so much beauty all around just now. It’s even more remarkable, given our February freeze. Apparently we underestimated nature’s resilience!

    1. I was happy to see them; they’re a real sign of summer coming on. In a few weeks they’ll be thicker, and the moorhens and coots will be making us of them for food and shelter. I’ve seen the ones at this refuge so thick that baby Moorhens walk across them with imunity — such fun!

  8. Very pretty set of photos, Linda! My ‘Colorado’ lilies bloom almost everyday. We never got around to cleaning the pond and therefore, separating the lilies, but the flowers open everyday, so no complaints there.

    1. I looked up your lilies, and they’re the kind of pink I like, with that little touch of salmon. I see that they’re counted a ‘hardy’ lily, too, which makes them an even better choice for your pond. If I were a bee, I’d head right for them. I’m glad they’re hardy. I’d find it hard to lose those beauties in a freeze.

    1. What a nice compliment, Dina! I’m hoping to find some yellow lilies open on a brighter day. Cloudy, gray skies and an afternoon arrival meant these were beginning to close, and the colors weren’t quite as clear as I like — but a water lily’s a water lily, and they certainly made me smile.

  9. Water lilies were among my favourite flowers to photograph in past years, but I have only seen one (white) species near my home and that’s in the Wetlands pond I photographed a couple of weeks ago.

    I love the soft yellow colour of the yellow water-lily in this post.

    One afternoon a few years ago, in the Royal Botanic Gardens Lilypond, I was watching as a (white) bud actually popped open and it was like seeing a baby born – a little miracle unfolding.

    1. We have another aquatic plant called spatterdock that has an almost buttercup-like bloom. It’s a more vibrant yellow, but I like the softer yellow. These can be brighter, especially if the sun’s shining, but they’re still more subtle. That’s a wonderful story about the water lily opening. I got to watch a white prickly poppy open one more over the course of about 15 minutes, and you’re right: the unfolding was like a ilttle miracle.

    1. I didn’t realize just how ‘native’ these are until I spotted some cows around a tank in a field near Sequin. The water was edged with flowers, and when I looked more closely, I realized they were water lilies and lotuses. I can’t imagine how they got there. Birds, I suppose, as there wasn’t a house anywhere near and it clearly wasn’t a garden setting.

      If you’d like to see these, they’re in your neighborhood. The Lake Waco Wetlands have at least two of these species.

        1. But they need fresh water, so not every wetland will suit them. That’s one reason I went so long without seeing them. I was spending most of my time around salt or brackish water. We see the effect of salt on some aquatic plants every now and then, when flooding carries water hyacinth down the creeks to the bay. They arrive looking pretty and fresh, but it’s not long before they begin to die under the effect of the salt.

  10. Your comment about an alligator rising to the surface with a water lily on its head and wearing a smile recalled the Lewis Carroll poem about the crocodile. Water lillies are a personal favorite. I imagined a tea set once with the plates being lily pads, and the cups being blossoms. Perhaps some of the cups would be white and some yellow and some pink, to cover all the bases.

    1. There never can be too much Lewis Carroll as far as I’m concerned. I’m glad you mentioned the crocodile poem, because I’d forgotten it. Woe betide those little fishies who are charmed by that wide smile.

      I like your idea for a tea set. There are plates embossed like water lily leaves, and cups and saucers decorated with images of water lilies, but it seems your water lily shaped pieces are unique. Know a potter?

    1. There seems to be a general fondness for the yellow. It is one of my favorite colors, and the lilies aren’t quite so in-your-face as a yellow sunflower. Sunflowers are cheerful, but they’re Auntie Mame cheerful. This one is Audrey Hepburn yellow: elegant and yet a little self-effacing.

    1. While reading up on these, I discovered there are water lily species that not only are hardier than the tropical varieties, they require fewer hours of direct sunlight: as few as three per day. I never would have connected shade and water lilies, but they’re out there. There’d be no need for the complexities of an actual pond. From what I understand, they can be grown in barrels or other containers and do very well.

    1. The pond still was a little cluttered with debris and the water was a bit muddy, but it worked out all right. I certainly wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to photograph my first accessible water lilies of the year. I’d seen a few some weeks earlier, but they were entirely too far to show up as more than a white speck in the distance. These were better.

      1. Dark water hides a lot of things…even bodies sometimes. You did a good job of composing out the clutter. We are just starting to see lily pads so hopefully the flowers will arrive soon. And once there are pads to sit upon, can bullfrogs be far behind?

  11. It’s stunning to see the flowers rising up from the water. Waterlilies are one of the flowers that I most love to see when I’m garden-visiting but they’re a fairly rare treat!

    1. I’m surprised it took me so long to realize they’re quite common here. I suppose it was a result of beginning my wanderings on the prairies. It took a while to move to the wetlands and such. They are magical, as are the lotuses. I’m looking forward to seeing their numbers increase.

  12. What a lovely prelude to summer!

    We know our “frigid” Florida winter is behind us when the water lilies begin blooming. Your photographs are beautiful and I hope I’m not too late to capture some of our locals.

    Note to self: Photo challenge – ‘gator wearing a blooming water lily bonnet.

    (Apologies for being absent. Computer passed away and took awhile to replace.)

    1. No apologies are needed, ever. You do have my sympathy, though. I had a CRT monitor commit suicide on my desk some years ago; there’s nothing like the smell of burning plastic to focus the attention.

      This won’t seem at all unusual to Florida-you, but I had my first experience of meeting a bellowing alligator on an isolated path recently. I’m accustomed to gator grunts. They don’t bother me at all. But when I heard exactly this sound about ten feet off my port side, I thought it was time to leave. For some reason, I don’t think that one was wearing a water lily bonnet!

  13. Water lilies, tropical water lilies, and lotus; I can never remember which is which without looking it up. They’re all pretty though, and make nice pictures.

    1. I get confused with the water lilies, but the lotuses are pretty easy to spot: at least, down here. Lotuses have much larger leaves, and the flowers stand much higher out of the water than do the water lilies. Our lotuses are yellow, but I think in Asian countries they’re mostly pink. As you say, they’re all pretty, and it’s great fun to photograph them.

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