Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Lots of rain-lilies

with 31 comments

Rain-lily colony; click for greater detail.

Yesterday I ended with the line: “It’s now a few days past this weekend’s welcome rain, and suddenly instead of a few stray rain-lilies Austin is covered with thousands of them.” Following a link in that post, Lynda asked: “Do they have a fragrance as other lilies do?” I answered that they do, though it’s subtle. She also asked: “Do they come up en masse? If so, will you be sharing a picture?” To that I answered: “Yes, sometimes these flowers come up en masse, and in fact I hunted in likely places for such a colony yesterday but didn’t find one. I found plenty of groups, but the flowers were too scattered for the effect I wanted to get in a photograph. My best group pictures of rain-lilies are from a decade ago, and I’ve long regretted not encountering such dense colonies again. One of these days….”

Well, I didn’t have to wait long. Yesterday morning at the Perry Lane cul-de-sac on the west side of Mopac at 45th St. I found a colony of rain-lilies, Cooperia drummondii, as dense as the ones I remember from a decade ago. The picture above mostly speaks for itself, but I’ll add that the presence of so many rain-lilies in close quarters filled the air with their scent, and the morning breeze carried their fragrance so magnified to me that I didn’t even have to bend down to smell them.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2011 at 5:29 AM

31 Responses

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  1. Steve, When you mentioned where you found this colony it got me to thinking. In the fall of 911 (2001), things were so hectic and Camp Mabry was closed to the public. This gave me a prime opportunity to wander around at leisure during my breaks. The mowing crew was busy doing other things so the parade field was left to its own devices. Lo and behold, Copper Lilies popped up everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it since. It did not take long for things to get back to normal.

    Agnes Plutino

    October 14, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    • Funny you should mention that, Agnes. I went back to the same place this morning to take some more pictures of the rain-lilies. After I’d been photographing for a while, a police car pulled up nearby and a policeman approached to find out what I was doing. He saw soon enough that I was taking pictures of the flowers, but apparently someone had called the police to say a man was taking pictures of Camp Mabry (which is a military base whose eastern edge is across the street from the plot with all the rain lilies). I took the opportunity to teach the policeman, and then a second one who showed up, about rain-lilies.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2011 at 1:27 PM

  2. These are just stunning — I can imagine the smell!

    PS – Wish I could lend you the ocean, but I would want it back!!!

    Writing Letters & Postcards

    October 14, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    • Yes, I reconfirmed the fragrance this morning.

      As for the ocean, I’ll be glad to give it back if we can have it for a while. You can have some rain-lilies as collateral.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2011 at 1:29 PM

  3. I linked to you!

    Writing Letters & Postcards

    October 14, 2011 at 9:33 AM

  4. That is lovely!
    Thank you for sharing it


    October 14, 2011 at 10:12 AM

  5. Somewhere in the great state of Texas the Rain Lilies defied an historical drought.

    Clouds formed,
    rain fell,
    the lilies awoke.

    Stretching to meet the sun their fragrance filled the air…



    Glad you were there. 😉


    October 14, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    • Me too! Glad enough to go back. I also found another dense bunch a mile or so north of there, and it smelled just as good.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2011 at 1:36 PM

  6. wow, beautiful post! I have never come across a colony of rain-lilies like this but can imagine what an incredible moment it would be…


    October 14, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    • Thanks. If you hop on a plane tonight you may still make it here in time to see and smell the rain-lilies. Failing that, the picture will have to do; I can’t convey the aroma, alas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2011 at 1:38 PM

  7. Amazing that one soaking rain with cooler weather, with a severe drought in progress, is finding those rain lily plants exploding like they are…you all deserve sights like that! I saw something less dense than that 2 weeks ago in N. San Antonio.

    Desert Dweller / David C.

    October 14, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    • Yes, these rain-lilies have practically exploded out of the earth. I think they’re making up for lost time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2011 at 8:52 PM

  8. They are beautiful! What a refreshing sight they must be after the long hot drought!


    October 14, 2011 at 9:34 PM

    • Indeed they are! I’d been wondering what wildflowers the rain might bring, and luckily I didn’t have to wait long for this first, extravagant example.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2011 at 9:46 PM

  9. […] numerous did you say the rain-lilies […]

  10. I saw your post about the lilies Friday and then took off to run errands around town (Austin). I saw the lilies everywhere! I don’t think I would have noticed them in the same way had I not seen your post. Lots of mini uplifting moments (seeing the lilies) in an extremely stressful day. Thank you!


    October 15, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    • You’re welcome. This is one of those cases where, once something is pointed out to us, we begin to see it in one place after another. I’m glad these pretty flowers brought you some solace in your stressful day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 15, 2011 at 11:32 PM

  11. […] a dense colony of rain-lilies in their prime; […]

  12. […] a dense colony of rain-lilies in their prime; […]

  13. […] Dee Smith saw the recent rain-lily pictures in this column, he sent me an e-mail: “I was out walking the greenbelt/power lines in my […]

  14. I followed the random post link for another look around and landed here, These are wonderful, brilliant detail. 🙂


    January 5, 2012 at 1:57 PM

    • Thanks for letting me know how you got to this post. Seems like the WordPress wizard knew what it was doing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2012 at 2:01 PM

  15. Beautiful!


    January 27, 2014 at 10:26 PM

  16. […] Often that means kneeling or sitting down to isolate a subject against subjects that are far enough away to remain nicely out of focus in the background. In the picture of a green lily budding, for example, the surrounding land has lost most of its detail. Even less distinct is the background in the picture of a new cedar elm leaf. If a plant is growing along the bank of a river or lake, that body of water can become a mostly neutral background; an example of that is the seed head of a sunflower by a pond. Shooting horizontally, especially with a long lens, can also produce a different effect; with objects that are numerous but small, aiming horizontally can bunch them together and partly fill the spaces between them, as in the photograph of rain-lilies in a colony. […]

  17. What a wonderful sight to behold and fragrance to inhale. I imagine it must be similarly spectacular to observe desert flowers come to life after a rain.


    August 30, 2021 at 6:24 PM

    • For the past few years I unfortunately haven’t seen large rain-lily colonies like this one. Let’s hope my luck changes. I also haven’t seen a desert bloom in person, only online. I’m still hoping for one of those, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2021 at 7:51 PM

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