Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

First rain-lilies of the second season

with 35 comments

Rain-Lily by Pond 2323

Rain-lilies appear here in the spring and then again toward the end of summer and into the fall. After two months of drought we finally had a bit of rain on August 20th, and four days later I began seeing a few rain-lilies along the expressway called Mopac. On August 26th at the pond behind Central Market on North Lamar I photographed this Cooperia drummondii, which I almost missed because it was the one and only rain-lily there.


I’m still backed up with pictures from June and July but don’t want current images to fall too far behind, so I’ve been alternating between older and more-recent photographs.


UPDATE: I’ve corrected a misidentification in a post from two weeks ago about Bastrop.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 30, 2015 at 5:16 AM

35 Responses

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  1. Your rain lily almost looks like a rainbow. So pretty 🙂


    August 30, 2015 at 5:48 AM

    • That’s a pretty insight, too. As many years as I’ve been photographing rain-lilies, I don’t think anyone has ever extended the rain into a rainbow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2015 at 6:28 AM

  2. Sharp eye to spot the lone beauty! Beautiful!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    August 30, 2015 at 6:02 AM

    • I wonder now whether anyone else paid any attention to it. It was small and in a place where lying down between a large rock and the water wasn’t easy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2015 at 6:33 AM

  3. That is an absolutely stunning photo!!


    August 30, 2015 at 6:29 AM

    • I’ve photographed rain-lilies many times over the past 16 years but this is the first photograph I remember of one with the sunlight partially illuminating the flower’s shaft in the way you see it here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2015 at 6:35 AM

  4. You captured it perfectly :).


    August 30, 2015 at 7:48 AM

    • It keeps getting harder to find new ways of looking at rain-lilies, but I keep trying. Glad you appreciate this one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2015 at 8:04 AM

  5. Lovely capture of delicate petals–with a little cropping could become an abstraction.


    August 30, 2015 at 10:37 AM

  6. Nice. I have to do the same thing or they fall through the cracks, so to speak. OTOH, it’s nice to rediscover something from a few seasons back now and then.

    Steve Gingold

    August 30, 2015 at 10:47 AM

    • My thinking is that once an unshown photograph gets to be a couple of months old already, waiting another few weeks or months to show it won’t matter. In contrast, something from the last week or two still has an immediacy that accords with the season. Either way, because digital technology has made it so easy to take lots of pictures that there will always be worthy images that never see the light of day here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2015 at 10:54 AM

  7. This reminds me of your lovely bluebell photo, where the light revealed the yellow at the base of the flower.

    I’ve never seen such luscious color in a rain lily: only hints of it in the buds and the declining flowers. Of course, my experience with them is far more limited than yours, but I’m accustomed to seeing the flowers in bloom as white. with an occasional pink blush. This looks like a different flower — a sign that you’ve succeeded in finding a new way to portray the little beauty.


    August 30, 2015 at 3:38 PM

    • Like that recent photograph of the bluebell, I took this one with the sunlight translucing (to make up a verb) the rain-lily in several places.

      As you say, I’ve had lots of experience looking at and photographing rain-lilies, so I’ve seen plenty of variations in color, sometimes subtle and sometimes more hueful (to make up another word). White holds sway for the longest time of any of the colors, but other colors there certainly are.

      The fact that this portrait of a rain-lily is different from previous ones made me happy, naturally, and it was a reward for the difficult picture-taking position I had to put my body in.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2015 at 5:15 PM

  8. This is so stunning – so simple and elegant

    Raewyn's Photos

    August 30, 2015 at 3:48 PM

  9. It’s beautiful. Were you close enough to notice its fragrance?


    August 31, 2015 at 5:45 AM

  10. The rain-lily! What a lovely name.

    Mary Mageau

    August 31, 2015 at 6:50 PM

  11. I won’t be saying anything new here, but the light illuminating this is beautiful. The colours remind me of boiled candy lollies/sweets. I also have to agree with other commenters that “rain-lily is a beautiful name. I wonder if there is a child/adult out there called that by nature loving parents. I’m glad you didn’t miss this lone treasure.


    September 1, 2015 at 6:25 AM

    • I’m happy not to have missed it. In fact I’d circled the pond for a good while taking pictures of various things and was most of the way back to the patio with outdoor tables largely filled up now with the lunchtime crowd when I suddenly noticed this lone little lily. I doubt anyone else paid it any attention, but I couldn’t pass it by.

      Rain-lily as a name: now that’s something that never occurred to me. I wonder if most parents would find the rain part negative (don’t rain on my parade, and all that) and would prefer just the Lily that’s already in use as a girl’s name. On the other hand, without rain to sustain plants in nature there wouldn’t be any flowers to borrow the names of.

      I also didn’t think of boiled candy lollies, which are beyond my purview, but clearly not beyond yours.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2015 at 7:22 AM

  12. I mentioned the rain-lilies I saw this past weekend. Something I noticed was that all of the colonies I saw in Galveston were only inches high, with smaller flowers, while the ones in Chambers county clearly were Cooperia drummondii, and mostly 12′-18″ tall.

    I’ve tried to figure out if I was seeing a different variety, or if it might be something in the Galveston environment that’s made the difference: mowing, for example. While I was snooping around, I found this:

    “There are several kinds of Rain Lilies in Texas. The most abundant one is Cooperia drummondii, named after two botanists, Daniel Cooper, an Englishman, and Thomas Drummond, a Scottish botanist who had many plants of Texas named in his honor. Most are white flowered, but one in east Texas is orange.”

    That same article provides some interesting information about rain-lilies from an agricultural point of view, and a little poetry:

    “Rain Lilies are readily nibbled by sheep, goats and deer, what little there is for them to nibble. Their appearance in our pastures is strikingly below what we see in ungrazed areas, suggesting that Rain Lilies cannot survive if the leaves are grazed off and the bulb does not get a regular replacement of energy it uses up to produce the flowers and leaves.

    One in east Texas contributes to a disease in cattle called Photosensitization, in which bare skin and skin covered with white hair are blistered by the sun, becoming weepy, bloody and scabby. Udders become sensitive, and nursing calves may be kicked off, making for an unhappy situation…

    Not until a few years ago was the cause of the disease finally discovered by my colleague, Barron Rector, Range Extension Specialist. It is caused by the deteriorating and decomposing leaves of an east Texas Rain Lily that cows consume unintentionally with each mouthful of grass. To commemorate the discovery, I generated a poem as follows:

    It seems silly for a Rain lily to sunburn
    a cow — we don’t know how.
    Let’s ask Rector the photo-detector.”


    September 9, 2015 at 7:36 AM

    • I checked a botanical atlas of Texas and confirmed that there are only two species of Cooperia in the state: drummondii and pedunculata. When the guy in that article talks about orange “rain-lilies” I suspect he’s thinking of copper lilies, which look similar (except for color) but are in the genus Habranthus:


      What the guy says about the flowers not surviving if the leaves get eaten makes sense. The flowers spring up so quickly (once they get going) that they need lots of energy.

      I’d heard about photosensitization, which can also afflict people, but I didn’t know that rain-lily leaves could produce that malady. I’ve read that it can be caused by ingredients in certain medicines:


      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2015 at 8:59 PM

  13. […] the pond behind the Central Market on North Lamar (on the same outing that recently brought you a closeup of a rain-lily), here’s a dragonfly that I take to be a male blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis, clasping […]

  14. […] drummondii, that had sprung up after some rain a few days earlier. Contrast this multitude with the single flower I found behind Central Market on August 26th after an earlier rainfall that called forth many fewer […]

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