Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Copper lily

with 20 comments

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

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 2, 2011 at 5:29 AM

20 Responses

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  1. The sheen on the flower petal is beautiful – what a tiny masterpiece.


    November 2, 2011 at 7:56 AM

  2. This is quite lovely! I do not believe that the amateur in the audience (me) would have recognized the artifacts in the photo for what they are had you not mentioned them. 😉
    ~ Lynda


    November 2, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    • Thanks, Lynda; I’m pleased that you find this lovely. Sometimes defects can be—I’ll make up a word—profects.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 2, 2011 at 1:17 PM

  3. This is a gorgeous photo – the colours work beautifully with the slightly-metallic sheen of the flowers. I think the spots add to the photo, another layer of interest that compliments, but doesn’t overwhelm, the rest of the picture.

    Journey Photographic

    November 2, 2011 at 4:58 PM

  4. Very lovely and so delicate.


    November 2, 2011 at 8:34 PM

  5. That’s a beautiful lily and a terrific photo! I’ve been going through “wildflower withdrawal” here and really enjoying your shots!


    November 2, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    • Thanks, Terry. I’m sorry about your wildflower withdrawal; one advantage of this southern clime is that we still have wildflowers, and even with the drought some of them, like Maximilian sunflowers and heath asters, are having a good time as we enter November. I’m not anywhere near running out of wildflower pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2011 at 12:12 AM

  6. We won’t be seeing such brilliance of color until next summer for us north of the 49th parallel. It’s grey and bare trees now, strong wind today telling me another winter is upon us very soon. But to warm up I can always come to view your posts, to thaw the frozen mood up here.


    November 2, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    • Please do drop in to warm up and treat your wildflower withdrawal, as Terry called it in the previous comment. For the last few days, afternoon temperatures in Austin have been in the 80s, though a cold front will drop that by about 20 degrees overnight. We still have leaves on the trees, though some are brown and dry from the drought. It remains to be seen whether we’ll have our usual bit of fall color.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2011 at 12:18 AM

  7. You continue to spread the surprise in a flower like it was the first time. Copper lily —great name & real good info as they are new to me. Amazed at the tender green giving way to the yellow and gold sparkled with whites around the natural stripes.
    Superb shot !


    November 5, 2011 at 6:30 AM

    • Thank you for your perceptive comments, Firas. I’m happy to introduce you to copper lilies, which I don’t often see.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 5, 2011 at 7:25 AM

  8. Another amazing flower photo. The light is great here!


    December 31, 2011 at 4:35 AM

    • Thank you. Yes, I was enamored of the light as I saw it through the viewfinder of my camera, both backlighting the flower and creating the circles at the bottom.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2011 at 7:28 AM

  9. My goodness me! What a stunning shot!
    I ever tried to shoot with backlighting as well as here:


    But I think I should explore more. 🙂


    December 19, 2012 at 10:47 AM

    • Thank you. One thing that I find effective in this copper lily picture is that in addition to the effect of the translucence, there’s nothing recognizable in the background that could distract from the subject. Lying on the ground paid off in this case.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2012 at 10:54 AM

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