The Seventy-Seven Minute Wonder

8:06 a.m.

On September 19, five days after Hurricane Nicholas made landfall, waters in the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge ponds had receded somewhat, but this water lily still wore the necklace of detritus it had collected as it pushed its way through the water’s surface.

Other lilies already had opened, but the loop of grasses around this one’s top had prevented it from joining them. Its slightly odd shape brought to mind a garlic clove, and I paused to photograph it before continuing along the boardwalk.

After a mosquito-shortened visit to a nearby trail, I passed the lily again, forty-one minutes later. Despite impediments, a single petal had worked itself free.

8:47 a.m.

In little more than another half-hour, only two or three petals still were impeded by the grasses.

9:23 a.m.

Witness to such an opening, I couldn’t help wondering if Dylan Thomas’s famous lines were rooted in a similar experience:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.


Comments always are welcome.

58 thoughts on “The Seventy-Seven Minute Wonder

    1. The other thing that comes to mind is my favorite sort of dim sum: char siu bao, the barbequed pork buns. The entire sequence serves as a reminder that something’s always happening in nature, even if we don’t notice.

        1. Dim Sum for breakfast sounds great, but the best I know of are in Houston, and I’m not about to tackle the traffic at rush hour. Maybe I’ll have to stick with one of the kolaches that’s just a mile down the road.

          1. I wish you did, too. As I recall, char sui ding is very much like cashew chicken, but with almonds. I sure do wish I could go back to San Francisco’s Chinatown with my Chinese professor and his family. I never was entirely certain what I was eating in the upper rooms where we landed — he always ordered — but the food was great. You and Eve can come, too.

    1. It would have been fun to catch more of the process, but it never occurred to me that it would happen so quickly. Water lilies generally seem to open fairly slowly, but of course this one had stored up some energy.

    1. If it hadn’t beckoned me with that one little petal, I wouldn’t have thought to go back again. Once I saw that petal had slipped free, I was curious to see if the rest could manage it. In the end, maybe all of them opened, but almost-all was good enough.

    1. A delicate appearance and remarkable strength aren’t necessarily opposed. Beyond that, think of the force needed for a daffodil or tulip to push through the earth, or the ability of vines to climb several feet in a day. It’s all amazing as can be!

  1. for some reason some of my double orange day liliy buds, the tips of the petals will stick together and they look similar though taller. but if I don’t come along in the morning and break them loose they will fade without ever opening. I’m glad the water lily managed to break free.

    1. I have a vague memory of day lilies that seemed a little ‘sticky.’ That might account for their clingy petals. I never stopped to help one out, but I don’t doubt that yours were appreciative. I noticed some new growth on red-tip photinia today and thought about you. There wasn’t any sunshine to set them aglow, but in a few days we might have some.

    1. I really like that garlicky appearance, although I was quite taken with that single petal waving about as if to say, “Free at last, free at last!” There’s no telling what sights we’ll see next.

  2. Seventy-seven minutes, huh? Gee, isn’t Nature amazing? Just goes to show that when things are meant to bloom, then bloom they will! Congrats on catching it in action.

    1. I’m not sure how long it takes a normal water lily to open. The next time I’m at the refuge, and it’s early enough, I may pay closer attention. The lilies will be with us for a good while yet, so there’s plenty of time to do that. As for this one? Clearly, there are ‘late bloomers’ even in the plant world!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, babsje. I know something else you would have enjoyed today, too. When I got down to the marina to begin my work day, there was the most handsome Great Blue Heron fishing from the swim platform of the boat I’ve been working with. He was a little annoyed to be disturbed, but he just moved down to the end of the dock, and kept me company for some time. Such fun!

  3. Like you, a garlic clove was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw your first photo. I’m also impressed by the lily’s persistence in shedding its burden, but I suppose lilies would be long gone if a little aquatic debris could defeat them.

    And I have to ask: How were the mosquitoes during the half hour between photo 2 and photo 3?

    1. I just took another look at that first photo and realized all of us have missed something else: its resemblance to a Hershey’s kiss. Looking at that second photo, it occurs to me how neat it would be to have Hershey kisses that unwrap themselves.

      As for the mosquitoes, they were far worse in the grass and trees along the trail than on the boardwalk near the lilies. Even so, Permethrin-treated clothing and a nice spritz with Picaridin does a good job of keeping the critters at bay. The Picaridin doesn’t harm things like camera bodies, either; that’s a nice plus.

    1. ‘Planning’ may be too grand a word for most of my excursions, but they do involve some patience. I’ve often found that a willingness to change plans is important, too. When I saw that little petal waving at me, I just had to stop and wave back.

  4. The phrase “force of Nature” comes to mind . . . So glad to see another of those lovely blue-tinged water lilies. Delightful. Almost like they were accidentally washed in hot water with a piece of sky whose color ran.

    1. In other words: water-color. It’s been such a pleasure to see those blue-tinged lilies this year. I don’t remember seeing so many in the past, or so many lilies generally. It’s a beautiful abundance.

    1. I don’t always make good use of it, but I’ve learned one lesson from dragonflies and butterflies: if you stop chasing them around, they’ll often return to the same spot. Flowers like this don’t move so dramatically, but they also show their changes. Patience is key. There’s an old, classic rule for stalking: “Stop often ‘n’ set frequent.” It worked here.

    1. One of our local wildflowers — the silverleaf nightshade — is given to just that: growing up through the blacktop at the edge of roads. It’s still blooming now. If I happen across a particularly energetic one, I’ll snap a photo of it.

  5. How cool that you happened back at the right time to witness such a phenomenon. I’ve seen similar, although not constricted, with Fringed Gentians that are only open for a few hours when in full sun. I’ve also seen flowers that have pushed their way through holes in leaves, sometimes successfully and other times a bit disheveled. I’ve never seen any of our local water-lilies impinged like that.

    1. I suspect the detritus on top of the lily was due to the high tide during Hurricane Nicholas. Under normal circumstances, the pond surface is covered with duckweed, Carolina mosquito fern, and old reeds, but the lilies don’t have any trouble rising up through those.

      The best real-time opening I’ve ever seen was a certain lily in Liberia. It bloomed only once a year for two or three nights, and there were lily-watching parties. You could sit and watch the entire process unfold in a very short time. I can’t remember exactly how long it took, but it was only minutes: perhaps fifteen. The thing that distinguished those African lilies was their fragrance; it was amazingly sweet, but not cloying.

    1. Sometimes I think the miracle isn’t what nature gets up to, but that someone pays attention. The natural processes taking place around us every day are so interesting, and sometimes quite beautiful.

  6. Great photos, Linda. Loved seeing the lily opening despite an apparent impediment. As they say “where there is a will. there is a way.” But of course just maybe the nature’s way was stronger than that little bit of wrap around at the top.

    1. More than once, I’ve imagined that lily muttering, “I think I can…I think I can.” It was the little lily that could, and I might have used that for the title, had I not already set the phrase aside for a different set of photos. It was a singular sight, and I’m glad that I noticed it. I’ve decided one advantage of a garden is the ability to check plants morning and night, but in this case things moved quickly enough that I was able to catch the changes.

  7. Kudos on having the knowledge and curiosity to capture a flower in the act of blooming!

    This episode reminded me of the childhood lesson in metamorphosis where we learned that “helping” a butterfly escape its cocoon is not a good thing. Nature always finds a way.

    Another beautiful experience photographed and described beautifully.

    1. That caution you received about ‘helping’ butterflies reminded me of the annual reminders that every baby bird in a bush isn’t necessarily hurt, abandoned, or in trouble. It’s just as likely a parent is watching from the shadows.

      As I remind myself from time to time, mallards and fawns and cardinals know more about how to be themselves than I do. Flowers too, for that matter. Had this lily not been in the middle of the pond, I might have been tempted to ‘help it along’ by removing the debris. Had I done so, the moment would have passed, and so would the photographic opportunity.

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