The Same Diamonds, A Different Ditch

Spider Lily ~ Hymenocallis liriosme

I’ve always thought of the various flowers that bloom alongside our highways and rural roads as ‘ditch diamonds.’ Their preference for a damp environment makes ditches a perfect home for them, and their beauty certainly qualifies them as jewels.

Last year, I found my first of these jewels in the form of Spider Lilies (Hymenocallis liriosme).  Despite our significant February freeze, a few had come into bloom when I discovered them on March 7, east of Lake Jackson along Farm to Market Road 2004.

Yesterday, March 6 — just a day earlier and a few miles west of Lake Jackson — I found my first spider lilies of 2022. In last year’s post, I mentioned that these first blooms stood as tokens of the massed lilies yet to come. Looking through my archives, I found that to be true. Photos from 2018, 2019, and 2021 show ditches filled with the flowers in the latter part of March.

There’s no question about it. The lilies are coming.

Comments always are welcome.

72 thoughts on “The Same Diamonds, A Different Ditch

    1. While I don’t have an answer, I’m sure someone does. But, I have a hypothesis.

      When a portion of the Brazoria refuge was burned a few years ago, acres and acres of spider lilies emerged. They had to have been there for years, before that land was turned into rice fields. But given a chance, the lilies came back after the burn — like this. It may be that more of these are around than we know, but the ones in the ditches are able to thrive because conditions are right, and no one messes with them. In any event, it sure is fun to find them.

      I’ve heard that one of the best places to look for them closer to you is around Sheldon Lake.

      1. My first sighting was around Eagle Lake in the 80’s. I would guess that animals dropped them and the flowers loved the man made ditches and thrived. Or a human could have thought the ditch could look better with a few flowers in them. I am fascinated by watching how seeds and plants move around my yard. It would be an interesting job tracking plants’ movements.

        1. I found one bit of history. In the early 1800’s, botanist Jean Louis Berlandier charted the plants of an area that included sections of present-day Texas. In his journal he describes a scene where his expedition found itself surrounded by knee-high white lilies while they traveled from from San Antonio to Rusk. It’s entirely possible they’d come upon these lilies.

  1. Lovely blooms. I am sure you were happy to discover them. We have a few mild days in the forecast so perhaps before long we will have Snowdrops. Fingers crossed.

    1. I’ve been seeing photos of snowdrops from some British gardeners. They’re such pretty flowers; I hope yours arrive sooner rather than later. I do enjoy finding certain flowers in the same places every year, or at the same time. They have their timetable, and they do a fine job of sticking to it.

    1. The edges — of woods, prairies, ponds — are wonderful places to explore. The beach is an ‘edge,’ too. Where worlds meet, there’s no predicting what will be found!

  2. How very lovely to have the prospect of more of these elegant flowers populating the countryside in the days to come. I really enjoyed learning about the “ditch diamonds,” Linda, thank you.

    1. In time, our wild irises and other water-loving flowers will join them, along with the sedges, cattails, and other rushes. For me, they’re all ‘ditch diamonds.’ Still, there’s something about finding a mass of these lilies that’s truly memorable. The bees and other pollinators certainly love them; I didn’t notice the bee gathering pollen from the flower on the right until well after I’d posted the photo!

  3. I like how you’ve managed to catalog the arrival and departure of some of these flowers and insects, Linda. I wonder if an early arrival translates to an early season. These are certainly Spring-like and inspire much hope that winter — for you, at least — is going away.

    1. These may be among our first flowers, but they’re not really early; they’re right on time. I like to think of them as scouts sent out to check conditions and let the rest of the crew know if its safe to come out. I saw two dragonflies today, and if the dragonflies have dared take to the air, spring is well and truly on its way.

      We’re going to have another cold front rolling through tomorrow, but no freeze. With luck, this will be our last. If it is, that will mean things are becoming more springlike for you, too.

    1. No, it certainly isn’t. If I had some of those other diamonds, I’d ditch them in a minute. Since I don’t, I’ll just stick to my ditches and enjoy what they have to offer.

      By the way, we don’t have much huisache around here, but last week I thought I caught a bit of a golden glow in a local patch that I drive by from time to time. Now I’m sure that I did, since I found a single tree blooming over by the Nash Prairie today. It’s time to start watching for them; I hope it’s a good year.

  4. I have these in our back yard, a gift from an aunt in Jasper, where they are commonly called firecrackers. They burst forth in our “monsoon springs,” a sight to behold.

    1. A few years ago, they burned a section of the Brazoria refuge, and it was astonishing to see these lilies come up and cover the land. It was very wet that year after the burn, so I suspect your aunt had a similar experience. They really are gorgeous flowers.

      1. Oh, my stars. What I wouldn’t give to see such a sight. This looks like one of my favorite pastures. I wouldn’t mind if it looked like this. My two plants flourish after heavy rains and flooding; today, the only evidence that they exist are a few battered leaves poking above the grass and a wee blackberry vine. Thanks for the photograph. You get to see amazing pieces of Texas.

        1. What’s interesting is that the next year, there still were some lilies in that spot, but the past two years I didn’t see any. I do have a hunch that a few years down the road, when they burn the same area again, those lilies will reappear: especially if we have a nice, wet season for them.

    1. They manage to be simple and complex, all at the same time. The fact that they’re white makes them even more appealing, at least to white-flower-loving me.

    1. Looking at this map, it makes sense that you would have missed seeing this one. I’ll occasionally see a couple of other lilies in the Crinum genus, but those are far less common, and seem to bloom a little later. I’m hoping to find some this year since I’ve found them fairly close to home, and we all know what the gas prices are doing to free-range flower seekers!

      1. You’ve said it all. This weekend I was planning an outing 70 mi from eye then I thought, nay, I’ll just save some money and my car is getting old and if it breaks how am going to buy another one? The parking lot at the dealership was empty last time I came in for a service.

    1. I have shown them before. One year, acres of them showed up in a section of burned land at the Brazoria refuge. It was a wet year, and I guess they’d been lying in wait, hoping for just the right conditions. Today I found some wild onions forming buds, and ladybugs! I’ve never seen ladybugs swarm before, but there might have been hundreds of them. I have no idea what was happening. More research is required!

  5. Such pretty pretties. I grew some spider lilies many years ago, but they succumbed to some sort of insect infestation. I have no clue what species the bulbs were.

    I love your term ‘ditch diamonds’–so descriptive and accurate.

    1. And as far as I’m concerned, if it grows in a ditch, it qualifies as a diamond. Native iris, cattails, obedient plant, sedges — I love them all.

      I came home even more excited today. I think you said that you’ve seen spiderwort blooming in your garden, and I found some at Brazos Bend. I really wished they hadn’t been blooming in a dewberry patch, but a few scratches was a small price to pay for their first photos of the year.

    1. Do I have a treat in store for you, Liz. I found a relative of a common and beautiful plant/tree that grows in your country, and it was in bloom. We call ours huisache; I think you shared photos of your wattle, but both are acacias. I didn’t find the healthiest specimen — some of the limbs seemed dead — but the flowers still will be worth sharing when I get around to it. I’m going to see if I can’t find some better examples first.

  6. …….and a welcome sight I’m sure they are. ‘ditch diamonds’ are the perfect description for flowers that bloom in the wild.

    P.S. I’m having trouble commenting on some WordPress blogs. Haven’t had this WordPress, or computer, glitch for a long time, but I’m able to read all your posts.

    1. I hate that you’re having to deal with those WP glitches again. Maybe they’ll go away as quickly as they came. Solving internet problems can be especially frustrating because it’s almost impossible to know exactly what the problem is.

      Not only is the metaphor a good one for these beautiful plants (and their ditchy companions), ‘ditch diamonds’ has the added benefit of alliterating. ‘Ditch sapphires’ or ‘ditch emeralds’ just doesn’t have the same sound!

  7. Lilies seem to have that spontaneity to pop up whenever the mood strikes them. Here the highways are often full of lilies, mile after mile.
    Right now near my place the ‘naked lilies ‘are everywhere. They have a very beautiful scent.
    ( Amaryllis Belladonna) .

    1. That lily pops up here, too — both figuratively and literally. The most I’ve ever seen at one time was in an Arkansas town. The medians of the downtown area were filled with them; they’re so pretty. Here, they’re often called ‘naked ladies,’ which always brings giggles from the kids.

  8. I have visions of you kitted up in wellies and thorn-proof gauntlets on your explorations now! The lilies are delightfully exotic and exuberant. Well worth overcoming the difficulties of getting close to them.

    1. I do wear knee high boots most of the time, and long sleeved shirts if I’m going to be in bramble territory, but neither was necessary to photograph these lovely lilies. Telephoto lenses; they’re not just for birds any more! I just pulled to the side of the road, exchanged my macro lens for my 70-300mm, and went to work!

    1. Unfortunately, there’s another significant cold front in our forecast that may slow their emergence a bit, but they won’t be stopped. By the end of March, they’ll be marching along.

    1. That would be great, except then I might be tempted to slough off and not take photos of pretty slough plants! The difference between ‘slew’ and ‘sluff’ is considerable. Down here, ‘slew’ is for those snakey bodies of water, and ‘sluff’ is for cast-off snake skins!

      1. I guess around here, people talk of slacking off, and I guess you’d be familiar with slack water, and not the kind you get when you put wet pants through a wringer. I’m trying to think when I’ve seen “slew” other than David vs Goliath. And the front edge of a sail ‘s luff, right?

        1. That’s right — the front of the sail’s the luff and the back is the leech — not to be confused with certain sort of yucky creatures, or certain personality types! When I was a kid, we used to vacation at Leech Lake in Minnesota. It certainly created some memories, and not all of them were good!

    1. They are. Just now, we’re heading back into the cold, but no freeze is predicted, and we’ll be back in the upper 50s by the weekend. Slowly, slowly, the pattern is changing.

  9. Ditch diamonds. I like that. It’s fascinating how we can use our archives as a form of time machine, looking back and comparing to now, finding patterns and prompting predictions, seeing how things have perhaps changed over time.

    1. Our photo archives function much as the journals of the early botanists and explorers functioned. When I first started prowling around, I didn’t keep records as well as I now wish I had, but I got smart about three years ago, and I’m glad I did. My poor archives certainly need organizing and culling, but I figure when gas hits $10/gallon, I’ll have plenty of time to sit at home and do that sort of thing!

  10. Oooh, spider lilies!

    While I’ve not seen any of yours around in local ditches, I do have another variety that popped up out of the blue in one of my flower beds. Lycoris radiata aka red spider lily. Where it came from, I don’t know for sure but I suspect my avian friends had something to do with it. They brought me my carolina jasmine.

    I remember seeing them in someone’s flower bed when I was small and we lived in an apartment in downtown Charleston. I thought they were neat then and my opinion hasn’t changed.

    1. I wondered why I’ve never seen your red spider lily, and this probably is the answer: it’s not native to the U.S., and it’s not shown at all in Texas. It may be in a few gardens, especially in east Texas, where it might have crept across the border from Louisiana. It certainly is a beauty.

      We have a couple of other native lilies that aren’t nearly as common as this one. I’m hoping to find them again this year, since when I first came across them I didn’t realize they were native. Whoops!

  11. Those would be a thrill to find at any time of the year but as a spring early adopter and warming welcome they are a delight to see and, I am sure, delightful to find.

    1. Best of all, they have a fairly long season, and they can multiply like crazy. They’re willing to lay low until conditions are just right, too, so unexpected stands will suddenly appear where they’ve never been seen. They certainly are a delight to find, especially for those of us who enjoy white flowers.

  12. Well. I left a comment and WordPress ate it. As I recall, I commented that those spider lilies look very elaborate, like petunias on steroids. The anthers are so long, I wonder what their pollinators are. Hummingbirds? Those big moths that look like hummingbirds? (hawk moths?)

    1. If you click to enlarge the photo, and look at the anther in the upper right, you can see one of those pollinators: a native bee. I didn’t even see it until I posted the photo. Bees, beetles, spiders, and various flies all are attracted to them; the spiders don’t come for the pollen, but lie in wait for the other insects that visit. Butterflies and moths — including hawk moths — are primary pollinators, and hummingbirds do visit them. I suppose all the species are equally attractive to them.

  13. What a fabulous find! It always surprises me to see the gorgeous and very (to me) exotic-looking flowers that you have in the wild. Very different from our wild flowers.

    1. And to us, the plants in countries like Mexico or Ecuador look exotic! It’s the differences that make life so interesting — and the internet so valuable. Think of all the things we’d never know about if we couldn’t see one another’s photos!

        1. It absolutely does. I have some friends from the north who still can’t get over the fact that they saw Bird of Paradise flowers growing next to the parking lot at my nearby Walgreens.

  14. Diamonds such as these never go out of fashion!

    Out of 16 species of Hymenocallis in the U.S., 13 can be found in Florida. Not only are they beautiful “ditch decorations”, many of them have a fabulous aroma.

    Heading out to the grass prairie soon and hope to find some of these jewels waiting for us.

    1. That’s just amazing — 13 of 16 species. A true embarassment of riches! I looked at some of your species, and they’re gorgeous. I found one that’s native to Latin America that grows in your state, too: Hymenocallis littoralis. It’s amazing how similar they are to this one. If only ours had a vanilla aroma.

      I hope your day on the prairie was profitable — I know it was enjoyable!

    1. Could be. I know we have a native Crinum lily that looks a lot like the spider lily. I saw it at Armand Bayou, but I remember it blooming in summer. They’re all pretty, and after that crazy freeze we had, seeing any of them is a pleasure.

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