Life Among the Rain Lilies

A centerpiece for nature’s table

Discovering one charming group of rain lilies (Zephyranthes chlorosolen) at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge was immensely satisfying, but nature had another surprise in store: a second bouquet so beautifully arranged it might have been created by a professional florist.

After admiring the second clump of flowers, I turned my attention to  individual lilies scattered along the roadside, and found them teeming with life.  Emerging rain lily buds, elegant as the flowers themselves, played host to a number of tiny grasshopper nymphs who hugged the slender stems.

Among the blooms,  a dozen or more Lesser Meadow Katydid nymphs (genus Conocephalus ) roamed and nibbled.

Tempted by pollen and nectar, hoverflies joined the party.

Some insects secreted themselves within the flowers’ depths, closing the door behind them. Here, a spider or caterpillar might have been at work. Despite my curiosity, I chose to imagine a ‘Do Not Disturb” sign and moved on.

One camera-shy crab spider retreated beneath the petals so quickly I missed a clear image, but she’d found a beautiful place to await her prey. Rather than spinning a web, many of these spiders engage in lurking: snatching up unwary visitors seeking nectar or seeds.

Even a few minutes of roadside observation confirms an important truth: as much as we enjoy decorating our homes with flowers, innumerable creatures consider the flowers themselves to be their homes: places of shelter and sustenance. We’re lucky they’re willing to invite us in.

 

Comments always are welcome. Click on any image for more detail.

61 thoughts on “Life Among the Rain Lilies

    1. Thanks, Bob. It was especially interesting to see the cluster of flowers from different angles. I took photos all around the group, but only said, “Ah, ha!” when I saw this image.

  1. A nice reminder of what can be seen underneath the typical view. The shot of the grasshopper nymph is particularly interesting. I love the detail in the eye and antenna.

    1. That grasshopper wasn’t particularly interested in being photographed. Anyone who thinks insects aren’t aware of us hasn’t spent much time chasing one around a stem. I finally found a distance he seemed willing to tolerate, and then just sat down and waited. After a while, he came around to take a peek, and the photo’s the result.

    1. The group of lilies is reminiscent of certain art deco skyscrapers, like the top of the Chrysler building. I was especially pleased with that photo. As I mentioned to Bob, I circled the group and took photos from multiple angles, and it paid off.

  2. I’m impressed at the detail you’ve captured here, Linda. The lilies themselves are gorgeous, and you’ve said it well that these kinds of creatures consider flowers to be their homes. I suppose every living thing would love being enveloped by such beauty!

    1. Something just occurred to me. There’s a popular recipe magazine called Taste of Home; these insects give an entirely different meaning to that phrase, given their penchant for nibbling away on the petals and leaves. The ragged petal edge in the second katydid photo shows what that one had been up to!

    1. The flowers were the original subject, but the insects became lagniappe: that something extra that’s not always expected, but always appreciated.

    1. Well, as Bon Jovi put it in one of my favorite songs, “Luck ain’t always lucky — got to make your own breaks…” Sometimes there’s a fine line between luck and patience, especially when stalking a creature: even if the creature’s an inch long and shy.

    1. Thanks, Judy. Triangular bouquets have been staples of banquet tables and church altars for decades, and it was fun to see nature presenting her own version of one.

  3. It’s a really terrific post showing the inter-relationship between living things. I am quite sure that many people learned from this and may be checking the vase of flowers on the table in the hall! Your photographs are nothing short of superb.

    1. Well, you know who said it best: that would be John Muir. The more I wander around, the more I realize the truth of his words: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

  4. Lovely photos! Every time I imagine picking some of our wildflowers I start to wonder, but where will the bumblebees go if the flowers are in my house? So I leave them be.

    1. One of the most amusing sort-of-sad stories I heard the last time I was in Missouri involved a very pretty, lush white wildflower. One common name is ‘bride’s bouquet,’ because it’s so often picked for weddings. I can’t find it now, but there was a news report that people were being begged to stop picking it; there were fears that if increasing number of people made use of it, it would begin to disappear. Plucking a few from your garden’s not going to be an ecological threat, but I’ll bet your bees appreciate your consideration!

    1. Isn’t that group of lilies a great natural structure? The only thing that could have been better would have been a bee and a butterfly stopping by, but there were plenty of party-goers as it was.

  5. You found an entire eco system. How sad some people are so busy or blind and miss all the tiny wonders. The bouquet is beautiful.
    (But seriously, even the rain Lillies are wishing for a glimpse of sun? a glimpse….too much and we’ll be back to simmer and boil!)

    1. I’ll not be complaining about sunshine. Two weeks of no work because of rain is a bit much. A couple of days of lollygagging like these lilies is fine: any more, and it gets tedious.

      As for people who miss details, every now and then I remember two women who were walking down the boardwalk at the Dudney nature center. As they passed me, one said to the other, “Hey. Get a photo of that garden area.” The one with the iPhone tilted it to the side and clicked, but they never stopped walking.

  6. The first rain lily image is super – better perhaps than the first image in the last group, which I also loved. Fine captures of the insects as well, in particular the katydids and their long antennae.

    Grasshoppers and crab spiders do like to hide from the photographer. Crab spiders retreat to the underside of the petals, grasshoppers to the opposite side of the stem – then they peek around at you.

    One thing you can do with a grasshopper is hold your hand on the far side of the stem. You could end up with a nice side view. Crab spiders are not so easily herded, I’ve found.

    1. I think this is a better group image of the lilies, too; that’s why I saved it for a second entry. I watched the katydids for a while, hoping to capture one in the process of cleaning its antennae. That’s great fun to see; the first time I came across it, I couldn’t believe I was watching an insect in the process of grooming.

      I was as amused by the grasshopper’s attempts to avoid the camera as I was pleased by the final image. Young squirrels do the same thing, but their trees are bigger, and it’s easier to hide. Who knows? Maybe to them it’s a game of hide and seek, similar to our childhood games.

  7. A beautiful exposition on edible homes and their inhabitants ( taking a clue here from your mention of A Taste of Home). With that theme in mind I was particularly taken by the hoverfly which appears to be dive bombing into a plate of delicious cream! I have a friend who scolds me so much for picking fresh flowers from the garden (and thereby depriving insects of food) that I have actually started using a few artificial flowers in my vases; especially in winter.

    1. As it happens, I picked up whipping cream at the market today. I also brought home a half bushel of fresh peaches, so there’s cream-topped cobbler on the menu. If I hoverfly decides to give it a try, I’ll not shoo it away!

      Since I grew up with my mother and grandmother’s picking gardens, I’d certainly be plucking flowers too — if I had a garden. The woman who runs a nearby picking farm has what seems to be the perfect solution. She not only grows her fruit and veggies, she combines large stands of sunflowers, coneflowers, zinnias, and such with her produce. Customers can take a container the size of a one or three pound coffee can into the garden, and cut as many flowers as will fit for a single price. She says the trick is to grow so many flowers there are plenty for everyone: humans and otherwise.

      Occasionally I’ll bring home a bouquet from her place, but in autumn and winter, I enjoy using dried grasses and seedheads. I’ve also found that some flowers dry beautifully. The last bunch of basket-flowers I dried lasted for years with their color intact. It was great fun!

      1. That picking farm sounds wonderful, as do peach cobbler and whipped cream. I think dried flowers and seedheads are a great alternative to fresh flowers. I have a few of the same.

        1. There’s definitely going to be cobbler this weekend. I’m picking up a full case of peaches today, and a friend and I are going to spend some time putting them up. There’s nothing more optimistic than filling a freezer with peaches and blueberries in hurricane season when you don’t have a backup generator. Thanks to a friend’s experience, I photograph that full freezer now, for insurance purposes.

    1. Isn’t that little one cute? I actually spotted it when it was some distance away, so I had a few seconds to change the camera settings and try for an in-flight photo. I like the way its wings mimic the spread of the petals in the second photo, too. One of these days I’ll try to settle down and start identifying the various species, but for now ‘hoverfly’ is fine by me.

  8. Wow that grouping in the first shot is lovely. Hard to believe it wasn’t a florist’s creation. And I love the happy menagerie that you noticed and photographed, good eye!

      1. I’m a big fan of waffles. If we combined your peanut butter with Gallivanta’s whipped cream, and slathered both between two waffles, I think we’d have a FlufferNutter!

    1. There was a time when I never would have considered a grasshopper or katydid cute, but times have changed. Being able to see them in such detail certainly helps; there’s no question that there’s some ‘there’ there. What kind of consciousness they possess still is myterious, but they certainly are aware of their surroundings — and even seem to interact with us.

      1. I don’t know that I’ve ever sat down and had a chat with an insect, but I absolutely talk to critters that I run into on walks, I kind of think they can pick up on the tone in our voices and know that we mean them no harm.

        1. Our cats and dogs certainly communicate, and understand us, so why not other creatures? I’m not too sure about fish, but even turtles will make eye contact!

          1. My sister has red foot tortoises, which come out to eat when she sings. So whenever our folks are tortoise-sitting, they have to sing for them too at dinner time. It’s pretty funny, doesn’t matter what tune.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed them, Ellen. I’ll bet you’re enjoying the sunshine today, too. Over here, the snails are ten feet up the walls — they’re as ready as we are for the rain to end.

  9. Wow, that is a wonderful bouquet and so naturally created. Nice closeup of the grasshopper and all those cute little katydid nymphs. It is so hard to get a good close up of them and include their entire antennae. And even a rain lily is more beautiful with a hover fly.

    1. Isn’t that natural bouquet something? It’s one thing to find a clump of flowers, but to find so many pristine flowers so nicely arranged — with even some height to help create a sense of symmetry — was amazing. I hated to stop looking at them — thank goodness for photos to capture and hold some of those ephemeral moments.

      The grasshopper, of course, was just holding on for dear life. I’m sure he was more than ready to let that moment pass!

  10. Isn’t Nature great!?!

    An entomologist along with you would marvel at the bugs and then: “These flowers are certainly attractive.”

    The botanist would busy herself with jotting down details which would prove this specimen is not actually Zephyranthes drummondii and then: “Wow, look at the number of insects among the petals and stems.”

    A florist would take out his scissors knowing a client who would love this in an arrangement and then: “You know, these flowers wilt quickly once picked. They look beautiful in this setting.”

    The poor photographer would focus on a bloom only to see a crab spider within just as a hoverfly flitted into the scene followed by a grasshopper inching its way up the stem and then: Nothing – they would faint from exhaustion.

    Another spectacular example of a very special lagniappe illustrated with superb photographs and punctuated with perfect prose.

    1. In the middle of last night it occurred to me: someone who combines little bits of the entomologist, florist, botanist, and patient photographer in one package could be you or me: the sort of person some might call a naturalist. On the other hand, ‘tourist’ might do as well. I did feel like a tourist in insect-land at one point, wandering around snapping photos of this and that unexpected sight: both beautiful structures and exotic residents!

    1. It’s not often you can find a perfectly formed bouquet holding together without a vase! The little critters are cute, but I do love those flowers.

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