Floral Filigree

Not rain but dew gave this fading neighborhood rain lily (Zephyranthes chlorosolen) its unusual appearance.

I’ve often shown the brilliant white petals and sepals of these flowers in full bloom. While both can be tinged with pink, and while it isn’t unusual for the flowers to become a darker pink as they fade, in this instance the color suffused the entire flower in a way that seemed unusual.

Even more remarkably, the transparency created by the dewdrops and the patterns that emerged because of them reminded me of the finely-drawn gold filigree work that typifies much West African jewelry.

They also reminded me of this favorite poem from W.S. Merwin, who understood that not all jewels can be found in a shop.

Now in the blessed days of more and less
when the news about time is that each day
there is less of it I know none of that
as I walk out through the early garden
only the day and I are here with no
before or after and the dew looks up
without a number or a present age
                                 “Dew Light” ~ W.S. Merwin


Comments always are welcome.

52 thoughts on “Floral Filigree

    1. I’m glad you think so! It took me forever to make the association with filigree. I kept thinking, “What in the world is this reminding me of?” Finally, I got it, and it seemed perfect. I think thinning of the sepals and petals as the plant aged is what allowed the effect to emerge. Usually, even on an old plant, the dew just lays on top, instead of creating this kind of transparency.

    1. It seemed so delicate to me even at the time that I moved around the flower very carefully, lest I disturb the droplets. The sun was just over the trees, which gave it that golden blush.

    1. Thank you, Jeanie. It’s a wonderful reminder that, no matter how many photos we have of one plant or another, there may be a quite different one waiting for us down the road.

    1. I’m especially glad I found and preserved this unusual flower. On Saturday morning, about two hundred rain lilies were blooming in the vacant lot across the street. On Sunday, the mowers showed up; when I came home that afternoon, the land had been scalped. It’s the same old lesson — don’t be tempted into thinking, “Oh, I can come back later for some photos.” At least got to see them, and enjoy that sweet, sweet fragrance.

    1. This was taken on an exceptionally beautiful morning, David. Granted, it was pre-frontal passage, and not the most comfortable weather, but all that humidity condensed beautifully. In truth, the entire lot was sparkling, but I couldn’t quite manage a good photo of that. No matter; this one is wholly satisfying.

  1. That poem is perfect for your photo! Yes, this is such a delicate-looking beauty. The pink color, of course, is almost a blush, and the dew really makes it look priceless. Great job, Linda!

    1. There’s a ‘skeleton flower’ that’s native to China and Japan, and small areas in Appalachia, that becomes transparent when wet. This one reminded me of it, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the phenomenon before. However it happened, I’m glad I spotted it among its friends!

    1. The taxonomy of rain lilies gives me a headache. While this is listed in some places as Z. chlorosolen, it’s listed in other authoritative sources as Cooperia drummondi. To add to the confusion, Zephyranthes drummondii also is known as Cooperia pedunculata. Sigh.

      Apart from all that, when I looked at the BONAP maps, I found that there aren’t any native species in those two genera listed for California. I wonder if your climate just doesn’t suit the ones you’ve planted. I will say this: even our native rain lilies are unpredictable as can be. The ‘where’ and ‘when’ of their appearance can be highly variable. I hope some of yours decide to show their pretty little faces; they’re wonderful flowers.

    1. Thanks, MB! I was attracted to this flower, but the details didn’t emerge until I saw it on the computer. It was only about 2-1/2″ across, so I used my macro lens, and that did the trick!

    1. It took me a while to associate the patterns with filigree, but when it finally occurred to me, the connection seemed just right. The slight golden glow from the rising sun was a nice addition.

  2. After 7 years, it’s time to quote Francis Jammes again, this time as an echo of the end of the Merwin:

    On a baptisé les étoiles sans penser
    qu’elles n’avaient pas besoin de nom, et les nombres,
    qui prouvent que les belles comètes dans l’ombre
    passeront, ne les forceront pas à passer.

    [We’ve baptized the stars without thinking
    That they didn’t need a name, and numbers,
    Which prove that lovely comets will pass on
    Into the shadows, won’t make them pass on.]

    1. Jammes’s lines are a lovely complement to the Merwin. I remember you quoting Il Va Neiger in the past: I think in its entirety. I just read it again, and appreciated even more the structure of the poem, particularly in the first and last verses.

      Speaking of passing on, this is the last photo I took among the rain lilies before the mowers showed up and the rain lilies passed on to that great meadow in the sky. I had a sense at the time that this capture was somehow special, so I came back home to look at it on the computer monitor. Once I saw it, I was satisfied, and didn’t go back.

      1. Yes, the dewdrop-induced transparency is something special. I’ve occasionally seen it in rain lilies but not as uniformly as in your specimen. You carried out a worthy rescue, from time, pictorially, if not from the mower’s blades.

        I figured I must have quoted Il va neiger more than once. When I searched my site, I found only the one time in 2014, in reply to a comment of yours. Chances are I quoted it in one or both of your blogs, too. As far as I can tell, Jammes isn’t well-known today.

  3. It reminds me of a kind of reverse cloisonne where the enamel is the “lead” and the spaces it forms are filled with crystal. Would a bear, or moose, or mouse or bird be stopped in its tracks and be transfixed by such beauty? That is the thing I think that sets us apart from all other species on earth is that something like this can and does give us pause to wonder.

    1. Those spaces do resemble crystals, don’t they? Now I’m pondering the aesthetic sensibilities of the creatures that surround us. I’ve often wondered what squirrels are thinking when they’re just laying around on a branch; perhaps they are meditating on the beauty of sunilght in leaves.

    1. Well, emeralds and rubies — as well as amber, topaz, and diamonds — also are natural, but there’s no question that this sort of jewel is more accessible to most of us! When I was a child, I loved playing with my mother’s sparkly rhinestones; today, that same fascination seems to bubble up when I see dew like this.

      1. I once missed the bus for primary school but didn’t go back inside for ages to tell my mum – because I was too busy enjoying the sight of the dew sparkling on the grass. Mum wasn’t terribly impressed!

          1. Ah, but I didn’t dare tell her that I’d been entranced by the sparkly dew – she just thought I had absolutely no sense of time!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Margaret. I did some snooping, but couldn’t find anything I was sure was from the part of Africa you so enjoy. Is filigree jewelry common there, too? I saw some earrings and necklaces (especially filigree masks) but I just wasn’t sure of their source.

        1. I did look for pieces from the Gambia, but it was hard to tell the source of what I found. Even in Liberia, many of the pieces being sold were made in Ghana or Nigeria.

          1. Lots of glass beads ? From Gambia. Markets sell beads threaded on string for bracelets & necklaces. ‘Silver’ not hallmarked, white metal sold also at markets.

  4. I love the filigree comparison! The pattern also reminds me of Gini’s crochet work. Delicate, gentle, beautiful.

    The rain lily is always a surprise encounter. Here one moment and gone all too soon.

    1. Now that you mention it, I can see the resemblance to crochet, especially that done with the very thin threads. I have my grandmother’s crocheted tablecloths, but they’re a little heftier.

      I spotted a single rain lily yesterday in the midst of a serious construction zone. Nothing like combining a rain lily with rebar, cranes, bulldozers, and dirt (not soil!) There’s nothing for it but to smile at that point.

    1. Oh, I don’t know. When I look at your gardens, your painting, your rehabbing, and such, I’d say you can give anyone a run for their money in the creativity realm. Besides, nature’s not creative in the same way we are; I don’t think it sets out to ‘create’ something like this. No matter; its works are just as beautiful, and so easy to appreciate.

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