Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The end of the cycle

with 12 comments

Seed capsule of Cooperia drummondii; click for greater detail.

Today’s picture will be the last in the cycle of the rain-lily, Cooperia drummondii. We’ve seen:

a rain-lily bud beginning to open;

a dense colony of rain-lilies in their prime;

a colony with increasing pink beginning to rival white;

a rain-lily flower turning red as it shrivels up.

But the plant hasn’t yet died, and partway down the flower stem is an ovary, already slightly swollen, in which a seed capsule will continue to develop after all the parts of the delicate flower above it have fallen away.

Here, completing the cycle, is a photograph looking down at one of those fully developed tripartite capsules. I took this picture in the same place, my local Costco parking lot, and at the same time, October 1, that I photographed the opening rain-lily flower that began this mini-series.

For more information about Cooperia drummondii, including a map showing where in the south-central part of the United States it grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 17, 2011 at 5:33 AM

12 Responses

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  1. I loved seeing the cycle of this plant, and this photo is very nice too. In all parts of its life the flower is truly beautiful. Thanks for sharing this series of photos. 🙂


    October 17, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    • Thanks, Katie. Yes, all parts of the cycle are beautiful. I was out photographing rain-lilies again this morning. Just can’t get enough of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 17, 2011 at 1:21 PM

  2. To borrow a few of your words from your column, “All you have to do is look.” Indeed, and have the skill and creative interest to explore and document these wonderful miniature worlds native to your place. This seed capsule is exquisite, the mute shades encouraging me to want to touch it, to get close. Thanks for leaving a comment on my own blog, which has meant I was able to find yours. It’s a pleasure to be here…

    Best wishes,


    October 18, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    • Thanks, Julian. Your detailed essays about the Prespa Lakes in the Balkans—which I’d never even heard of—makes me wish I could document the endemic flora that you say exists there. You’ve done a wonderful job describing the people of that area, and perhaps in future essays you’ll turn your attention to nature there as well (or perhaps you’ve already done so without my being aware of it).

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2011 at 2:12 PM

      • My pleasure, Steve, and I’m delighted you’ve liked the Prespa essays. Looking at your photos and reading some of your recent posts, I’m sure you’d enjoy and find much of interest here in the Balkans. Yes, I’ve written about some of the area’s nature before; with Notes from Near and Far I try to weave back and forth, or bring together, nature and culture as it exists in a given place. But the posts often lean one way or the other. If you’re interested, you’ll find a number of posts using the category lists (or the archives which should bring up the tags of each post) that focus on butterflies, wild flowers, pelicans, geology etc. You’ll also find a link to an essay called ‘Time in the Karst Country’ in the right-hand sidebar which details a number of the birds and rich geology of the area if you’re interested in finding out more about the region. Best wishes and thanks again,



        October 18, 2011 at 2:36 PM

      • Great. I’ll follow your leads and learn more about nature in your adopted home.

        Steve Schwartzman

        October 18, 2011 at 4:10 PM

  3. Certainly this shot shows a wonder—of three capsules fused into one and each slowly starts to break!


    October 25, 2011 at 4:06 PM

  4. […] The outside of a rain-lily seed capsule. […]

  5. I went back to my patch of rain lilies today, and saw something new. In the past, I’ve only seen the flowers blooming, or the seed capsules. Today, I noticed a swelling in a stem, several inches below the flower, and a piece of stem between that swelling and the flower that was drying up.

    Eventually, I figured it out. The ovary wasn’t at the top of the plant, as I’d assumed. It was several inches below. A closer look at some other plants clearly showed the three-part seed capsule beginning to form with the drying parts of the flower still attached.

    I still couldn’t figure out how it all worked, but I found that a search for “where is the stigma in Cooperia drummondii?” surfaced a page where someone actually cut open a rain lily, and revealed all that complexity inside. Amazing.

    Your posts are a wealth of information. It was great to find a confirmation of my “great discovery” here.


    August 25, 2016 at 10:25 PM

    • A “great discovery” indeed: to the birds and the bees you’ve added rain lilies. I knew that the swelling several inches below the base of the floral tube is the ovary, but not until your linked article did I ever see what’s inside there. I’ve seen the stage you described between flowering and developing a seed capsule, and I knew the term “inferior ovary” (a phrase that can be misconstrued by someone who isn’t aware of botany), and now you’ve prompted me to find this other article that contains more information:


      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2016 at 4:19 AM

    • By the way, the guy at Backyard Nature uses an old genus name, Zephyranthes, which has stayed with the copper lily:


      He also uses an old species name, chlorosolen, that I came across the other day for the first time but I don’t remember where.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2016 at 4:31 AM

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