The Rain Lilies’ Country Cousins

On impulse, I decided to forgo a return to Galveston’s Broadway cemeteries to check on developments in the small patch of rain lilies I’d found there on April 29. Instead, I traveled to the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, where rain lilies also appear from time to time.

I sometimes have difficulty distinguishing our native rain lily species from one another, but these Brazoria blooms seemed to be the same Cooperia drummondii I’d found in Galveston. Their long floral tubes and the preference of the so-called Prairie Lily (Cooperia pedunculata) for more open spaces certainly suggests that, and the USDA map doesn’t show C. pedunculata in Brazoria County.

Regardless of the species, there was no questioning the source of the heady fragrance that hung above the flowers. In Galveston, strong winds had blown away the scent; here, a perfectly still morning allowed it to linger.

A special treat was finding this native thistle (Cirsium spp.) blooming next to the lilies. I tend to think of thistles as plants capable of thriving in dry conditions, so this one’s juxtaposition with floral evidence of rain made me smile.

Comments always are welcome.

Just Add Water, and the Earth Stirs

Rain lily bud

As bright Coreopsis and Firewheel began appearing alongside our streets and highways, my thoughts turned to the Broadway cemeteries in Galveston: always a favorite spot for spring flower photography. Favorable conditions sometimes lead to masses of flowers, as they did in 2020.

This year, generally dry conditions and my own late arrival meant the flowers were more scattered, with many Gaillardia already going to seed and the Coreopsis less dramatically dense than in the past. Still, to paraphrase the old saying, if one bloom closes, another opens, and the opening of a significant number of rain lilies (Cooperia drummondii) was an unexpected treat.

Rain lily flowers gradually open in the evening several days after rainfall and remain open a day or two; areas around Galveston received between one and two inches of rain on Tuesday, April 26, so the presence of blooms three days later wasn’t unusual. I found far more buds than flowers, so another visit clearly is in order.  

Finding a pleasing background in an urban cemetery can be challenging. Sometimes, as above, a sidewalk serves the purpose; in the photo below, a brick wall surrounding one of the cemeteries provided contrast for the white flowers.

Being able to position a bloom in front of fading Coreopsis and Gaillardia provided some color, but more than native wildflowers can serve that purpose.

Here, a bouquet of artificial flowers left at a grave frames a rain lily flower and bud: an unexpected but pleasing combination.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Sleeping In On a Weekend

Aging rain lilies occasionally bend toward the ground as their blooms fade and their stems weaken. Even so, the arc of the lily at the edge of the refuge pond seemed unusual, and a closer look revealed the reason: a tiny moth had chosen to bed down inside the flower.

As I scooted around, searching for the least obstructed view, the moth never moved. An hour later, it still was deep in its dreams: a real Sunday morning lazy-bones.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Once More, With Fragrance

An unusual evening rain lily

Last month, finding my first rain lilies of the year — a group of five flowers that included this little gem — satisfied me. They were there; they were lovely; and that was enough.

It never occurred to me that I’d find more rain lilies, and I certainly didn’t expect them to appear almost literally on my doorstep, adding their beauty to a vacant lot across the street.

As I arrived home for lunch yesterday, at least a hundred flowers greeted me. Too widely spaced for a satisfying group portrait, they were numerous enough for their fragrance to spread across the field, lingering in the still air.

Walking among the flowers, I noticed one in particular. Instead of the usual three white petals and three almost identical sepals, the flower was sporting nine. Was it six sepals and three petals? Or three sepals with an extra three petals thrown in as lagniappe? I’m still not sure, but the arrangement was as lovely as it was unusual.

 

Comments always are welcome.
Evening rain-lily (Cooperia drummondii, or Zephyranthes chlorosolen) has been moved from the Lily family (Liliaceae) to the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae). The specific epithet ‘drummondii’ recognizes Thomas Drummond, an 18th century Scottish naturalist.

Last Saturday’s ‘Something’

Evening rain lily (Cooperia drummondii, also known as Zephyranthes chlorosolen)

I’ve learned a number of lessons since beginning to roam the countryside in search of delights to photograph. Most have been of the practical sort: double-check the camera for the presence of its memory card before leaving home; always carry Benadryl; keep boots and extra water in the car; don’t put car keys in a shallow pocket.

Other lessons, less obvious, have been learned slowly, over time. After five years or so, I’ve yet to experience a single exception to a lesson best expressed as an aphorism: “There’s always something to see.” 

Last Saturday, my unexpected ‘something’ turned out to be five rain lilies. The flowers often emerge after rains, but despite a wet spring and early summer, I hadn’t yet seen one this year.

I certainly didn’t expect to find them clustered along a dry, dusty roadside during our typically hot and dry July, but there they were: one fading to pink, three somewhat nibbled and gnawed, and the one shown above still fresh, as nearly perfect as a flower could be.

I confess I sometimes talk to the flowers, and I talked to this one. “Look at you,” I said. “It’s barely past seven o’clock, and you’ve already given me my ‘something’ for the day.”

 

Comments always are welcome.
Evening rain-lily (Cooperia drummondii, or Zephyranthes chlorosolen) has been moved from the Lily family (Liliaceae) to the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae). The specific epithet ‘drummondii’ recognizes Thomas Drummond, an 18th century Scottish naturalist.