X Marks the Spot: The Search for the Celestial Lily
submitted by Donna Bollenbach, Suncoast Chapter
(originally printed in The Grapevine, the Suncoast Chapter's monthly newsletter)
Back in October, I ran into a friend at a native plant talk. He enthusiastically told me about a colony of Celestial Lilies, Nemastylis floridana, that were blooming in central Florida, and hastily drew me a map to locate the beautiful and endangered wildflowers. The map was very rough, so I tried to ask questions, but the talk we were both attending started, and I was left with this somewhat cryptic diagram. In any case, that weekend my husband, Bob, and I decided we were going to try find the spot, and invited a few unsuspecting friends for the hunt.
I first tried to see Celestial Lilies at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve. It was late fall, a little pass their peak blooming time, and all we found was one bud. With at least six pairs of eyes staring at it, it did not open. I should also say that Celestial Lilies are unusual in that they only open for a few hours in the late afternoon. For this reason, Roger Hammer has affectionately named it “the happy hour flower.”
|Fly visiting Dicerandra modesta|
We left for our journey at around 2 pm the following Sunday, with the map and some information I had pulled off Google. I remembered the words Huckleberry, Poinciana, and 17-92. So, when I found a preserve off Huckleberry Road in the vicinity of those roads, we thought we had it.
Blushing Scrub Mint
The first property we visited didn’t look like the habitat for the Celestial Lily, but it was perfect habitat for Blushing Scrub Balm, Dicerandra modesta, and we saw lots of it. It is also an endangered Florida native, but endemic to scrub habitat versus the moist open flatwoods that the Celestial Lily like to grow in. The flowers of the Blushing Scrub Balm are white with bright pink spots, reminding me of mint peppermint candies. This was our first time seeing it, so we did not mind being off track for the lilies.
The lilies looked like little blue stars that had dropped down from the cosmos. They were delicate, yet vibrant. They were scattered about in an understory of pine. Bright yellow sunflowers stood in contrast with the purple/blue flowers. A few isolated blooms were right along the trail. There was one rare white lily morph that seemed past its prime. The sight was a perfect end to serendipitous day.