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Rain Lily

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Loveliest of flowers, <I>Cooperia drummondii,</I> one of Texas
RAIN LILIES ARE OPPORTUNISTS; from mid-spring through late fall, they wait for the soil to get a good dousing from the sky, and then within a few days they appear, standing at their full height (five to nine inches). We hardly ever see rain lilies growing up–they're just suddenly there.

Among the most delicate and graceful of our native wildflowers, rain lilies can be pure white, but more commonly are tinged with pink or violet. Each flower has six tepals, which, when fully opened and viewed from above, reveal a star. (Tepal is the term for petals and sepals considered collectively; sepals are leaf-like segments often mistaken for petals.) A delicate, lovely fragrance wafts upon the air when rain lilies bloom.

Two species of rain lily grace our state. Cooperia pedunculata, or giant rain lily, has a shorter flower tube (but a larger flower) than the other species and generally blooms in the spring. Cooperia drummondii usually blooms in the late summer and fall. That's straightforward enough. How to classify the rain lily is another matter. As the plant's English name implies, botanists originally placed it in the lily family. (In Spanish, the plant is called cebollita, or "little onion," and onions are in fact members of the lily family.) Later, and for decades, the rain lily was designated as a member of the amaryllis family. Now that people have adjusted to that incongruity, some scientists are once again calling the rain lily a lily after all.

If scientific classifications are sometimes short-lived, the rain lily is always ephemeral, rarely lasting more than a couple of days.

Read 2086 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06

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