Eat stupid people.
I have always loved the flowers commonly called "spider lilies." Likely you've seen them, they usually bloom around September, or at least in Louisiana they do, coming up first as tall, slender stalks crowned with very thin petals opening to reveal long, slender pistils and stamens, looking for all the world like several blood-red spiders flipped on their backs.
Every September when I was in gradeschool whatever female teacher I might have for homeroom would invariably be gifted with a few choice spider lilies, their cut ends carefully wrapped in a wet paper towel and the whole stuffed into a plastic baggie. I don't recall when I finally stopped bringing flowers to teachers, but I do know that I never forgot my love of this little red flower, and I have always taken pains to have them in my yard and flowerbeds wherever I go.
Imagine then my suprise and astonishment when a horticulturally-prone aunt of mine gifted me with a few bulbs which she said were from a yellow spider lily she had. I didn't believe her, quite frankly, but dutifully put them in a big 5 gallon pot I had on my front porch and carefully watered and tended them. Imagine my further suprise when the stems arrived in late September, balancing on their tips bright yellow spider-like flowers! The species was obviously different, it was in no way the exact same flower as it's red counterpart, but the family resemblance was there; one long stem topped by several radially-spaced short branches, each one terminating in long, thin petals.
I raised that single bulb until it had parented almost ten daughters, and then I finally divided those amongst two flowerbeds, there to continue propagation. (One of the small joys of bulb-based flowers--they spread for free!)
And so finally the day came--I found yet another spider lily variant. This one growing wild in, of all places, ditches.
I had seen them appear every spring like clockwork, always in ditches, usually but not always in standing water. Sometimes in huge clumps, sometimes solo, but inevitably each, from the highway, seemed to be crowned in at least one or two star-like white flowers. I intended for years to stop and pick one, or bring my waders and swim out to one to see what it really looked like, but whenever I found myself traveling in the car down the highway there was always some pressing errand to run, or some place to be. I never had time, as it were, to stop and smell the flowers.
If only I had stopped years ago.
Their common name is "Water Spider Lily" or "Swamp Lily," their proper Latin genus is Hymenocallis, which means "beautiful membrane," they grow in the southeastern states from Texas to Florida, and they're beautiful. And I finally stopped long enough this past Ether Sunday to find that out.
Yes, Sunday I went one step better--I risked angry Easter-holiday-working police to go forth in my gum boots and dig a pair of these monsters up. I say 'monsters' because at 65mph and at 40' distance any plant shy of a tree looks small. Up close and personal these petite beauties are several feet tall, have roots a foot or more into the very marshy ground, and grow to several feet across. Suffice to say I got two home by sheer stamina, bloody-mindedness, and a desire to have these plants in my yard seconded only by my desire to get out of the drainage ditch beside a highway which had, suddenly, errupted in traffic the likes of which had never rolled down that stretch of tarmac before.
And so now they reside in my slightly waterlogged ditch, and I fervently walk around in circles hoping that by sheer force of will I can make them grow.
Ah, the perils of being a flower person.