Ephemeral art

Cooperia pendunculata (Amaryllidaceae)

Rain in Central Texas is a remarkable event.  For the past few years we have waited for rain so long that even a sprinkle is a reason to rejoice.  Alternatively there is a downpour of such intensity that you can only stand and marvel.  Different plants deal with the dichotomy of dearth and plenty in different ways.  Some like, trees and shrubs put down deep and extensive roots to wait out the hot, dry spells.  Annuals gamble all on appearing early and letting the next generation wait for pleasant conditions inside a seed.  The rain-lily has the amazing ability to time flowering immediately after rain events, seeming to pop up anytime of year.  In reality there are two species, C. pendunculata which tends to flower in the spring and early summer, and C. drummondii whose slightly smaller flowers rise up after late summer and fall downpours.

The yellow center of the rain lily. The three inner tepals are visible, backed by the outer tepals (two of which can be seen)

After rain a green stem grows up from a subterranean bulb.  Rising between strap like leaves the pinkish colored bud opens revealing a short-lived luminescent white flower.  The center of the flower is yellow but the bud and outer tepals have a faint pink hue increasing in intensity towards the central vein of the tepal.  These fragrant flowers seem to glow briefly, often in the brown grass of a parched landscape.

A field of rain lilies is a spectacular sight for almost a week in some cases, especially if there are sequential rain events.  Once one appears in a landscape they seem to seed and spread relatively quickly and easily, especially given consistent moisture.  I love to imagine growing the bulbs beneath the sides of a gravel walk, or in spaces amongst cacti.  They are wonderful reminders of the blessings of rain and regeneration, similar to that which we enjoy in the spring.

Rain lilies growing under a live oak. They are on the side of a paved driveway and receive no supplemental water.


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