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Sep 06 2012

Mystery Flora: Lilies of a Day

Flowers, unlike birds, don’t fly off and hide when I approach. They’re like rocks in that regard: delightfully immobile. Perhaps that’s why we get on so well.

But unlike rocks, flowers are brief. A few days, a few months, then gone until next season. These lovely lilies from atop Marys Peak blazed in the warm summer sun: now they are no more.

Mystery Flora I

But they’re glorious while they last. No wonder Ben Jonson eulogized his infant son by speaking of lilies.

The Noble Nature

It is not growing like a tree

In bulk, doth make Man better be;

Mystery Flora II

Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,

To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere:

Mystery Flora III

A lily of a day

Is fairer far in May,

Mystery Flora IV

Although it fall and die that night -

It was the plant and flower of light.

Mystery Flora V

In small proportions we just beauties see;

And in short measures life may perfect be.

Mystery Flora VI

This isn’t likely to be the type of lily that features in Ben Jonson’s memorial, but it belongs to the genus that inspired a genius. And if you visit Marys Peak on a day in July, you can sit in fields full of them, and drink sunshine and poetry while the butterflies flutter around you. They have brief lives, yes, but as the poet said, it’s not the length of time that matters.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Eric

    Lilium columbianum – Columbia or Tiger Lily

  2. 2
    Megan

    Lovely! It looks like the Michigan lilies we have here in the Midwest, which are one of my favorite summer flowers. Maybe it’s a Columbia lily (Lilium columbianum)?

  3. 3
    Heliconia

    Don’t know about the lily, but can anyone ID the butterfly? Some kind of fritillary?

    1. 3.1
      Eric

      Looks to be a male Greater Fritillary – Speyeria cybele

  4. 4
    Trebuchet

    The link in #2 is broken, here’s one from Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_lily

    Quite lovely!

  5. 5
    Alex SL

    Nice!

  6. 6
    rq

    Gorgeous flower! I especially like the last photo – with the butterfly (see? not everything runs from you and your camera!). I second all the identifications mentioned so far.

  7. 7
    Crissa

    We have one in our garden, tho we haven’t gotten it to bloom since the first year. Last year deer at the top and this year something sat on it.

  8. 8
    Dan McShane

    That first picture is wow! And what a great thing that despite the amaxing geology yoy see the whole of the land.

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