After Dee Smith saw the recent rain-lily pictures in this column, he sent me an e-mail on October 16: “I was out walking the greenbelt/power lines in my neighborhood this afternoon when I noticed a small yellow flower. Looking at it closer, it looked just like a rain lily except it was yellow instead of white.” I knew immediately what he was talking about, and his message inspired me to go to a location a couple of miles east of my house where I’d seen some of these yellow lilies a year or two earlier. I figured that if Dee was finding them, I had a good chance of seeing a resurgence of the ones near me too.
When I arrived at the lot in question, at first all I saw was a lot* of rain-lilies, but as I looked more carefully I gradually found a total of seven of these differently colored flowers, which are known as copper lilies, Habranthus tubispathus. As you can see, although these flowers look like rain-lilies, botanists don’t put them in the genus Cooperia that rain-lilies reside in. The origin of copper lilies isn’t clear. Some scholars believe they’re native to South America and came north with Spanish explorers and settlers some four or five centuries ago. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center considers them native, so I’ll feel entitled to include them in this native plant photography column.
All seven of the copper lilies I found were just a few inches tall, so to take this picture I had to lie on the ground. Some sunlit spots in front of me showed up as the round patches of a lighter color that you see in the lower half of the image. They’re artifacts of the pieces of glass inside the camera’s macro lens, and therefore defects of a sort, but I find that they work well here, especially as they contrast with the dark stems of the copper lily and of other plants in the background.
* I had a lot of trouble resisting the urge to play with the two senses of a lot.
© 2011 Steven Schwartzman