Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Rain-lilies along Mopac

with 34 comments

Rain-Lily Panorama 5735

Click for some zesty zooming.

During the morning rush hour on September 15th I worked my way gingerly across the west-side access road of Mopac, the second-busiest expressway in Austin, to photograph this long colony of rain-lilies, Cooperia 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 rain-lilies.

If you look carefully at the far left portion of the zoomed version of the photograph you’ll see parts of a few lavender-colored flowers. They’re silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium, and several of them were mixed in with the taller, more prominent, and far more numerous rain-lilies. On the other hand, in the four days since I took this picture, the rain-lilies have already shriveled and faded, while the hardy nightshade flowers are still going strong.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 19, 2015 at 4:41 AM

34 Responses

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  1. Very zesty but it seems the rain-lilies do not have as much zest for longevity as the nightshade.


    September 19, 2015 at 6:56 AM

  2. Very nice panorama. We get these but sparingly, in yellow and purple form. I caught the yellow form already, but found the purple one the other day, as Zephyranthes rosea, very sparingly however, growing in abandoned lots.

    Maria F.

    September 19, 2015 at 7:07 AM

    • Here we have a similar-looking yellow flower that used to be classified as a Zephyranthes. I may post a picture of one soon because I photographed some in a “vacant” lot a few days ago.

      I just found this about Cooperia:


      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2015 at 7:38 AM

      • I see. Well, at least the ones here have the petals looking more like the Zephyranthes type. Did the taxonomy change?

        Maria F.

        September 19, 2015 at 8:01 AM

  3. And a very zesty zoom it was, too!


    September 19, 2015 at 10:48 AM

  4. Is this a stitched pano or a crop, Steve? Either way, it looks great. Nice flowers.

    Steve Gingold

    September 19, 2015 at 6:21 PM

    • It’s a crop.
      I know you’d have a great time with rain-lilies. They’re so photogenic, individually and en masse. The best property I knew for these had few flowers this year because it’s become a construction site related to the addition of toll lanes to Mopac. As if to partly compensate, this little colony sprang up about a mile further north on the same side of Mopac.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2015 at 6:44 PM

  5. I clicked on it and enlarged the picture until I was immersed in them, Steve. Lovely shades. I can’t remember if you said they have much of a fragrance? I’m glad you weren’t flattened on the freeway. The things you do for your art. 🙂


    September 20, 2015 at 1:22 AM

    • I haven’t usually detected a scent until there’s a critical mass of rain-lilies. You might think this colony had reached critical mass, and yet I don’t remember noticing a scent this time. In contrast, four years back in time and a mile north in space, the scent had filled the air even at a distance:


      Unflattened me lived to tell the tale and show the photograph, but at rush hour I had to wait for a safe shot at crossing the multi-lane access road, and the fact that the place where I needed to cross was just “downstream” from a ramp exiting the main part of the highway made things worse.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 20, 2015 at 5:30 AM

      • Just checked the link. That would have been a wonderful sight (and smell). Beautiful image!


        September 20, 2015 at 5:38 AM

        • Unfortunately that’s the colony that didn’t reappear last week because the land has become a staging site for continuing construction on the expressway.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 20, 2015 at 5:47 AM

          • What a shame.


            September 20, 2015 at 5:53 AM

            • It is a shame. A few flowers did come up just outside the construction zone, where they had been in previous years. Perhaps after the construction ends in 2017 that place will gradually go back to normal if enough seeds from earlier years survive in the disturbed ground.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 20, 2015 at 5:58 AM

  6. I’m appreciative I was able to enlarge the photo…They are absolutely stunning.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekkker

    September 20, 2015 at 2:29 PM

  7. Que grupo tan bonito de florecitas, ¡una maravilla! Y la foto de la flor única ¡perfecta!

    Isabel F. Bernaldo de Quirós

    September 20, 2015 at 4:09 PM

    • Al hablar del grupo y de la flor única me haces reordar Los Tres Mosqueteros: Uno para todos y todos para uno.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 20, 2015 at 4:52 PM

  8. What a wonderful sight. Ours have disappeared now, and the field where I found them is covered in nearly waist-high grasses. That means the mowers will arrive soon, and we’ll be back to neatly-trimmed-and-tidy.

    On the other hand, you’re exactly right that most “vacant” lots are anything but. It just takes a sharp eye to find the delights — and the courage to cross Mopac.


    September 21, 2015 at 7:40 AM

    • I wouldn’t risk crossing Mopac itself, which is too dangerous. These rain-lilies were on a median (sidean?) between Mopac and the southbound access road, so that access road was all I had to cross. Even so, on the crossing back I had to wait a good while for a big enough clearing in the flow of cars for me to scoot back safely.

      As you’ve seen, rain-lilies don’t last long, which some people might find part of their appeal: enjoy them while you can. As for mowers, I’m feeling my usual animosity. Last week I went to check out a large colony of Liatris I’d spotted a couple of weeks earlier coming up in Round Rock, and when I got back I found that what must have been a gorgeous colony between my two visits had been mowed to the ground. What’s wrong with these people?

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2015 at 12:40 PM

      • I’m relieved to know you’re not trying to make it across Mopac itself. About once a week someone in Houston lands in the hospital after trying to make a run across a freeway. When it comes to that sort of thing, instead of uno para todos y todos para uno, it’s more likely cada hombre por el mismo. (Maybe not exactly right, but you get the point.)

        If I knew what was wrong with the compulsive mowers, I’d cure the disease. I suppose it’s some combination of the usual: routines, schedules, an unwillingness to make exceptions, thoughtlessness, and an inability to appreciate natural beauty. Oh: and whatever it is in people that makes them see the “untidiness” of wildflowers as a personal affront. I once knew a man who trimmed the grass along his driveway with scissors. I stayed away from him as much as possible.


        September 21, 2015 at 10:48 PM

  9. Ah, *two* wildflowers that are among my very favorite Texas natives in *one* marvelous shot. Lovely!


    September 21, 2015 at 4:58 PM

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