Life’s Force

Recent rains, sufficient to leave roadway puddles and the occasional flowing ditch, have enouraged new plant growth everywhere. Crepe myrtles are reblooming, shrubs are leafing out as though it were April, and the voice of the lawnmower is heard in the land.

From our schoolyard lawns to the highway medians of Galveston, one of the most prolific bloomers just now is a native rain lily (Zephyranthes chlorosolen). Aptly described by an online acquaintance as “all those little white flowers that come out of nowhere right after it rains,” they might also be described as “those little white flowers that bloom anywhere they darned well please.”

This small group had pushed its way through the hard clay of a construction site in what I imagined to be a natural call-and-response. The rain called, the flowers responded, and everyone who’s noticed is exclaiming in delight at their sudden appearance.  


Comments always are welcome.

93 thoughts on “Life’s Force

    1. That it is. I’ve been waiting to visit Walden West. It’s possible that it’s collected a bit of water now, too — and that increases my chances of finally seeing a frog.

  1. Out here in the desert, rain means FROGS. Rain means that there is a very small amount of time for desert frogs and toads to mate, lay eggs, and little tadpoles grow into frogs before the water holes again dry up. After a hard rain causes dry creeks and low areas to fill with water, the male frogs immediately begin their mating ritual (croaking and singing) to attract mates and get the job of making life done. Out on my morning bicycle ride on Hwy 385 after a rain, the frog singing almost makes me break out into joyful laughter, it is so loud and widespread.

    1. A week or so ago, after our first real rain — about a quarter-inch in the space of a half-hour — I walked outside and nearly laughed myself. The night was filled with the sounds of croaking and peeping; all of the creatures who’d been biding their time were ready to party. Of course, so were the humans who were listening to them.

    1. We’ve been blessed with consistent daily rains. An isolated half-inch won’t break a drought, but a half-inch or more every day for a week begins to make a real — and visible — difference. When two to four inches show up, the ditches flow and the ponds fill, to everyone’s delight.

  2. Beautiful flowers. And the way they’ve pushed themselves up has me thinking of discussions with my father yesterday while hiking. We were noticing how mushrooms can push their way up from what often seems very hard packed surfaces. In the most extreme example we found one that had pushed itself up through what I assume was a small crack in the asphalt of the side of the road. It still have a little black chunk resting atop the mushroom to show its strength.

    1. I’ve seen our silverleaf nightshade do the same thing: push up through asphalt. It always reminds me of the first line of the famous Dylan Thomas poem: “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower…” Our clay soil can become as hard as concrete, which makes the appearance of such a seemingly delicate flower even more impressive.

    1. Fireants and crawdads do the same thing: build higher mounds before a rain or during wet conditions. People here have remarked on the absence of fire ant mounds this year. Given our drought, it made sense. Now that there’s an “area of interest” in the NW Caribbean that’s headed for the Yucatan, everyone’s going to start watching for those mounds to build. Before Harvey, some of them grew to be a foot tall or more. Amazing.

        1. I wonder if your ants and our ants approach things differently? I’ve never thought about the fact that the same insect might act differently in a different environment, but why not? The fact that our water table’s so close to the surface might lead to ours building before storms because they’re attempting to escape the rising water caused by wind and tide. Someone’s probably done a study!

    1. I must confess: I have Solomon to thank for that line. Song of Solomon 12:2 reads, “The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come; and the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land.” While I was looking at the rain lily photos, the verse came to mind.

    1. It’s a resurgence we’re all grateful for. There’s rain in the forecast every day for the next week. I’m not happy about what it’s going to do to my work hours, but I’m happy as can be about what it means for the natural world (and some peoples’ water supplies).

  3. Persistence and steady force can get you through packed dirt. We recently had our dinner outside on the screened deck. There are lots of trees back there. We noted the sounds we heard: lawn mowers in front of and behind the house, leaf blowers, weed whackers, a murder of crows scolding in the distance, cicadas buzzing, kids laughing, and a train horn in the distance. It is rare to have silence this time of year.

    1. And even after dark, when the lawnmowers and weed whackers have gone silent, there are the crickets and frogs, the diving of nighthawks, the call of nightbirds, and the occasional coyote calling — even here in the suburbs. On a north wind, I get to hear trains, too; the sound of a horn in the distance is one of my favorites. Of course, this is cicada season, and their racket can drown out a lawnmower. I keep looking for a cicada killer, but so far I’ve not seen one this year. Now that the earth is softening, they may be more active.

        1. What I didn’t realize is that they’re essentially harmless to people. They’re big and buzzy, but I’ve stood with them hovering around and they seem not to care at all. On the other hand, I’d never try to take a cicada away from one.

          1. I’ve got a colony of cicada killers in my yard. I will follow them and allow them to circle around me. The first time I saw one, I said a few words and ran as it looked like the biggest bee I had ever seen. But, they are fine as long as you are not harassing them.

    1. We have at least three native species that I know of — two white and one yellow — but there are other species that can be purchased as bulbs and planted. A near-by town called Nassau Bay has pink ones planted in their medians, and when they decide to bloom, it’s quite something. Here’s a nice article about various pink ones.

  4. We had 4 and 1/2 inches in a few hours last Monday–it’s all or nothing around here, it seems. Other than my large bee hive (Bo-Peep) tipping over, everything is fine and the plants are loving the results–as are all the pollinators.

    You captured the pure beauty of rain lilies. I’ve grown them in the past, but my space has been too shady for a long time. Now that I have some sun, it’s time to get some bulbs. I’ll add that to my to-do list! Lovely post, Linda.

    1. Is Bo-Beep all right? and the bees? That must have created a bit of chaos. You will have a good place for the lilies now; as I’ve said before, it’s going to be fun to watch the developments over there. I think I remember that Judy has some Zephyranthes planted, too; I wonder if they’re blooming now.

      A lot of scattered showers have been roaming the area for the past week. Most are connected with the sea breeze; they begin at the coast, and then move inland. I saw some videos of Shoal Creek; for the most part, our flooding’s been confined to the feeder roads. That’s so common that the traffic people refer to FRF (feeder road flooding) and everyone knows what they mean.

      1. We think all is well. There’s always a chance the queen was injured or killed, but we’ll know more in the next few weeks. We think the hive just sort of hydro-planed; there was about 4 inches of water where they sit. The roof and two honey boxes were completely upended and rain poured directly into the boxes. The biggest damage would be that any uncapped honey would have washed away. We did a hive check on Friday and both honey boxes are about 60% capped honey–a good place to be heading into fall. The brood boxes lay on their side and probably some rain got in, but the insides weren’t directly in the downfall. The hive looked and acted pretty normal on Friday and we saw uncapped brood, meaning that there was a healthy queen in the past week. If we don’t see any uncapped brood next time, that means the hive has to make a new queen and that’s a little tricky going into autumn. Time will tell.

        I have some bricks that I plan to set on the feet of the hives. A tipped hive has never happened before. It’s always something!

        1. It really is interesting how complicated all this is, even without the added complications of weather-induced trauma. Your description sounds as though the hive’s in better condition than I imagined. I hope you do have a viable queen, and can just trundle on.
          Something on the feet’s a good idea. I knew I had to weight something down, but couldn’t remember what it was. Finally, it came to me. I always wrapped a long length of 3/8″ galvanized chain around the base of my Christmas tree while Dixie Rose was still around. I’d cover it up with a skirt, and she’s just sit there and glare at it.

  5. What happy little white flowers! I suppose Mother Nature might be a bit confused by this up-and-down weather, don’t you? And perhaps she’s merely getting in her licks while she still can … before the cold weather, which might not be just around the corner but which will surely arrive.

    1. With these flowers, I suspect it’s less confusion than Nature simply biding her time until the “right time.” I’ve seen these popping up in any month from March to November, and in places as far removed as the coastal counties and the hill country. When there’s the right amount of rain, and everything else is primed and ready, they’ll suddenly appear.

      Just to add to the fun, they can appear in a spot one year, and then not come back in that same spot for several years — until they do. That’s part of what makes them so much fun. Fuss over them in a garden, and more often than not nothing happens. Look at your car window at a barren construction site, and there they are. Wonderful!

    1. I wondered if anyone would see that tiny creature, and here you are. I’m sure all of the insects who depend on these plants were as happy to see them as we were! I sure would send you some rain if I could. It may be that some of the tropical moisture lurking around in the Gulf will ease that way in the next week.

  6. “Here, there, and everywhere.” Or so it seemed this week with respect to these rain lilies in Austin in the latter part of the week and down I-35 all the way to San Antonio yesterday. They were a welcome sight after so long without rain.

    1. The online acquaintance I quoted above actually is from Austin; he was referring to the spreads of rain lilies there. I haven’t seen any great colonies, but they certainly spread nicely over the landscape.

    1. I need some help ~ what are you seeing as seeds? Other than the lilies themselves, I don’t see anything but dirt, twigs, and dried grasses. Well, and a few bits of sprouting green that I can’t identify.

            1. I wonder if it’s somehow getting put in through WordPress itself. I just looked up “wordpress featured image” and it’s supposed to be something I can opt into with the block editor, but I don’t use the block editor, never have seen the option, and wouldn’t choose it if I could. Hmmm… let me explore a bit more and see if I can figure it out.

            2. I went into the post through the block editor and found the spot where I could add a featured image, but it shows that I haven’t done that. I went into my media library and looked at all the images of rain lilies there, but I didn’t find a photo with anything resembling their seeds. I’m baffled.

            3. Well, the mystery is sort of solved. Yes, those are rain lily seeds. I uploaded that photo to my media library for use in a future post, and it somehow got attached to this one, even though I didn’t intend that. When I went into the reader and blog and clicked on all the tags, I still couldn’t find it.

              No matter. One of these days you’ll see the photo again, with a bit more explanation. I took it out of my media library, so it should have disappeared. What an odd thing.

    1. Exactly. They don’t make any fuss at all. They only push up out of the ground, unfurl their petals, and enjoy the sunlight and rain. We could do well to learn from them.

    1. It’s been interesting to see our crepe myrtles put on new blooms. The newer flowers seem more colorful, too. It makes sense; rain refreshes everything. Many of our plants can take truly tough conditions. They simply wait it out, as though knowing that conditions will change.

  7. I always look forward to seeing my neighbor’s backyard filled with rain lilies. Each year the blooming area grows in size. I am very happy that she knows to have the mower guy wait until they have a chance to set seed. I have never figured why she has the lilies and there is nary a lily anywhere in my yard. I have a very small area of Bermuda grass that only gets mowed a few times during the warm months. Maybe one day I will collect some seed to scatter in the grass. Love the photo of the lily pushing through the hard packed ground.

    1. The unpredictability of these lilies is part of their charm: unless, of course, you wish you had them in your yard and they refuse to appear. The most amusing group I ever saw was on top of a rocky ridge outside Fredericksburg. There was absolutely nothing else growing there except a few assorted grasses and some prickly pear. Maybe even flowers like an occasional challenge.

      I do know that if you gather seed and scatter it flowers sometimes will appear, but it can take some time. Mowing sure makes a difference. A vacant lot across from me used to be filled with them, but when the land went up for sale and regular mowing began, that was the end of the rain lilies. I did read this at “seed is not viable for too long after collection. Do not store long before planting.”

  8. Boy, those rain lilies don’t mess about with leaves or stuff. They just cut straight to the bloom.
    “and the voice of the lawnmower is heard in the land.” — let me sing you the song of my people . . . .

    1. They do have leaves, but those are grass-like, and stay close to the ground. Still, as you say, it looks as if these couldn’t be bothered with producing leaves; they were too eager to get those petals unfurled.

      If that rain in your area was at all widespread, a mower or two is going to be dusted off.

    1. Even people who know little or nothing about native plants, and who generally don’t pay attention to the natural world, notice these. That’s one the side benefits to their sudden appearance; they stir curiosity.

    1. I truly don’t understand the appeal of artificial intelligence. I’d like to see a little more natural intelligence, thank you very much. I pay enough attention to things like the metaverse to know that it’s silly at best and think that it’s horrifying at worst. So much of it seems no more than a projection of certain individuals’ desire to play god. Granted, there are applications which are benign and useful, but it’s obvious that, like any tool, it can be used for good or evil. A hammer can pound a nail, but it also can smash a skull.

    1. Isn’t that amazing? We have a lot of what’s called gumbo soil. It contains a lot of clay, and when it hardens and shrinks, it’s so difficult to deal with. People even water the foundations of their houses to keep them from shifting as the soil dries; the ability of the lilies to work through that stuff after minimal rains is quite something.

  9. How lovely! They’re like the white cousins to the pink “surprise” lilies we saw so often in Ohio. Although now that I think about it, I don’t think those just showed up when it rained. So maybe not alike at all. Ha!

    1. I’ll bet what you’re remembering are Amaryllis belladonna. They’re known as surprise lilies, and also as naked ladies, because of their tendency to pop up like these, with only a bare stem between the ground and the flower.

      For some reason, this line in the article made me laugh aloud: “Divide Amaryllis lilies only when absolutely necessary. The plant dislikes change and may react by refusing to bloom for several years.” So there!

    1. We’re still getting rain, and it’s forecast for the rest of the week. I could use a few days without rain so I can get caught up at work, but I’m not ready to start really fussing about it. The plants and critters are happy as can be, and they deserve a little relief.

    1. I wish the rains would spread farther west, but there’s been nice, widespread rain through much of the state. We’ve had at least a bit for several days, and often one or two inches at a time. Last Sunday we explored a couple of the ponds on Galveston Island, and there was enough new water to make some birds happy. Between the softened ground and the filling ponds, there are a lot of smiles around.

    1. They’re one of my favorites. The most beautiful and artfully arranged bouquet of rain lilies I’ve ever seen was created by nature herself. You can see it here, in the first photo.

  10. Beautifully ludicrous to see such a thing in the packed soil of a construction site. Nature always seems to come out on top despite our best efforts to squelch it…consciously or not.

    1. I was glad that the lilies were pretty ones, but I was most impressed by the evidence of the force they exerted to get through that clay soil. In past years I’ve seen other rain lilies along the road there, so it makes sense that some seeds would have ripened and lodged in the soil, just waiting for the right time to bloom. Can’t you just imagine them saying, “Loam? We don’t need no stinking loam!”

  11. The right conditions and timing will reward persistent effort.
    The image of these lovely blooms bursting forth through the crusty earth is so beautifully motivating.

    A challenge is to locate this plant when it is not blooming.

    1. One of the post titles that crossed my mind was “Never Say Never.” As you know and I’m learning, nature’s filled with every sort of surprise.

      I’m almost as fond of these lilies’ seed pods as I am of the flower. Those little packets of life are something to see when they begin to open.

  12. We’re still very much in our dry season – the one that people who think it rains all the time in the NW aren’t aware of. We haven’t had any rain to speak of since mid June. Looking forward to something to give the plants a drink…

    1. When I saw this — not just the flower, but the force that had pushed it through the earth and into bloom — I had to record it. It suggested a little volcano — a floral eruption!

    1. Can you see me wearing my envious face? Lucky you, to have those yellow ones. Yellow flowers come close to rivaling white for my affections; I’m more than ready to start seeing some goldenrod.

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