Thursday, May 19, 2011

What is that rain lily?

My mother-in-law took this great photo of rain lilies at her house.
Don't you dare ask me which species it is.
 In my previous post, I wrote that I would observe the bloom cycle of our rain lilies and attempt a conclusive identification. Bowing to the clamor of my readers, here is the result.

I spent some time planning how to scientifically observe, record and complete this project. Then I took action.

Rain lilies open up on the second or third evening after a good rain. To correctly count, I should get up the first morning after they bloom and mark out a one- or two-foot-square patch containing rain lilies. I should take a picture, and then count the number of blooms in said square.

Our good rain came in two batches, and the website said the lilies bloom the second or third evening. Might more blooms emerge the next evening? I should go out the next morning and do a second picture and bloom count.

This painstaking process should be continued for the duration of the bloom cycle. After careful observations, I would be able to accurately determine how long the blooms stayed open, thereby ascertaining one fact needed for identification.

Did I do all that? Nah.

First of all, I should state that I am a trained journalist, not a botanist. My observations are much less formal, and therefore, much less reliable. I think the blooms lasted in the two-day range. This is an inconclusive finding, as the Hill Country rain lily blooms one to two days, and the evening star blooms two to four days.

I also used my trusty ruler to measure the height of the bloom stalks. According to the Wildflower Research Center, Hill Country rain lily stems are 5 to 9 inches high, while the evening star rain lily stems are 12 inches high. The majority of our stems fell in the 7- to 10-inch range, with some taller and some shorter – a check in the Hill Country rain lily column.

(Insert mental picture – tall, skinny stork of a woman hunched over in a field, wielding a ruler, scurrying from bloom to bloom measuring stalks.)

Finally, I decided I should check one more wildflower source, Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country by Marshall Enquist.


Mr. Enquist informed me that both of these species grow in our area, but that the Hill Country blooms in the spring, and the evening star blooms primarily in the fall. Also, he breezily told me that one can easily tell them apart by measuring the length of their floral tubes; Hill Country is 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, while eastern is 3 to 7 inches long.  I rushed out to measure one (yes, one is blooming even now – six days after the last rain), and said tube was 1½ inches long.

My finding:  The beautiful blooms recently decorating our land are Hill Country rain lilies (Cooperia pedunculata).

I leave you with two morals from this experience. One, you should consult several sources when seeking to identify a plant. Two, don’t choose me as one of them.

Favorite spot in the garden:

Not a whole lot is blooming in my garden right now, despite the recent soaking rain. I guess the plants were just too depressed, and needed the nourishment for survival, not procreation. I decided my favorite spot today would be whatever picture turned out best. Wouldn't you know, two pictures turned out well.

The spineless prickly pear (Opuntia ellisiana) is blooming
for the first time since it was planted five years ago.
I shoot with a Kodak EasyShare DX7440, and recently I have been on the verge of lobbing it out into the yard to shatter on the limestone. I have had some difficulties with close-ups. It can't possibly be the operator's fault.

But these two photos came out well, so perhaps the camera will live a little longer.

I know you all have petunias, but isn't it pretty with the rain beading up on the satiny petals?
(It is drizzling today in Hays County!)


  1. So glad you got that rain lily identified! Whew! And that it's drizzling!!! Send it this way, please!

  2. Funny blog-lady!!!!!!!!!

  3. Cynthia--
    An added note about rain lilies--they have a lovely fragrance! Early one morning last week I stepped out onto my porch with my morning coffee and was immediately surprised by the pleasant sweetness in the air--the aroma of the rain lilies. Now those rain lilies are bulging with seed pods and in a few more days they will scatter their progeny at the whim of the winds. A good south wind will bring them even closer to my house!

  4. @MAP - I never noticed a smell! Maybe mine weren't concentrated enough. Miss H has been gathering seed and redistributing them, today.