White water lily ~ Nymphaea odorata
Today, rising creeks and rivers are afflicting some parts of our state, but soon enough the rains will depart and summer will arrive: its rising heat and humidity making February’s freeze seem even more improbable.
A different sort of rising is taking place in area freshwater ponds and lakes. This weekend, I found three species of native water lily thriving at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. Michael Eason describes the white water lily shown above, Nymphaea odorata, as the most freeze-tolerant of our native species.
Lampazo amarillo, or yellow water lily ~ Nymphaea mexicana
On the other hand, the yellow water lilies also seem to have prospered through the winter months; a dozen or so already were in bloom.
Tropical water lily ~Nymphaea elegans
The tropical water lily doesn’t float on the water’s surface, but rises above it on peduncles, or stems, several inches in length. Its sepals are marked with the same colors as its leaves, which are purple on the bottom and green above.
The genesis of one common name for Nymphaea odorata, ‘alligator bonnet,’ is easy to understand. Innumerable alligators, both young and old, were cruising among these flowers; its easy to imagine one of the creatures rising to the surface, flower-bedecked and smiling.
Comments always are welcome.
Mexican water lily ~ Nymphaea mexicana
Texas is home to four native species of water lily. Nymphaea ampla, though common in Mexico and the Caribbean, is quite rare, while N. odorata, a white lily that floats on the water’s surface, and N. elegans, the so-called blue water lily, are relatively common.
Our fourth lily is uncommon enough that I’d never seen one until I discovered a pair blooming in a pond at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. The Spanish name for Nymphaea mexicana — lampazo amarillo, or yellow water lily — brings to mind the well-known Texas city. According to the Texas State Historical Association:
The settlement was originally called Oneida but was by majority consent renamed Amarillo after the nearby lake and creek. These natural features had been named by New Mexican traders and pastores, probably for the yellow soil along the creek banks or the yellow wildflowers that were abundant during the spring and summer.
Charles F. Rudolph, editor of the Tascosa Pioneer, blamed the [Fort Worth and Denver City Railway] employees for ignoring the word’s Spanish pronunciation; in 1888 he prophetically stated, “Never again will it be Ah-mah-ree-yoh.” Most of the town’s first houses were painted yellow in commemoration of the name change.
Unfortunately, when the Texas Legislature designated an official state water lily in 2011, it chose a cross between Nymphaea mexicana and another cultivar known as Nymphaea ‘Pink Starlet’ rather than one of our natives. Nymphaea ‘Texas Dawn,’ created by Ken Landon in 1985, is a lovely flower, but like the designation of the crape myrtle as our official state shrub, its selection clearly was influenced by factors other than its inherent beauty.
No matter. Lampazo amarillo will be blooming by morning, and it’s that amarillo that’s on my mind.
Comments always are welcome.