Saturday, January 23, 2010

Simpson's Rain-lily - Zephyranthes simpsonii

Much of what I could say about this wonderful wildflower has already been written below in my description of Atamasco rain-lilies (Zephyranthes atamasca).  Simpson's rain-lily (Z. simpsonii) shares many of the same characteristics as its close relative and the same growing requirements.
Simpson's rain lily, however, is far less common in Florida and occurs only in the northern two-thirds of the peninsula - not the panhandle or in the extreme south.  It also occurs in the Atlantic Coastal Plain to South Carolina.  In Florida, it is considered a state threatened species. 
I believe that part of the reason this species seems less common here is that it goes unnoticed.  I have found it regularly in pastures where it is totally leafless.  If not for the flowers, it would have been impossible to find.  I am still not sure if Simpson's rain lily regularly loses its leaves from grazing by cattle and other ungulates or if it loses them during periods of drought to conserve water.  I have only found it so far in areas where cattle are present - pastures and open pine flatwoods.
Regardless, this species is less floriferous that Atamasco rain-lily.  The leaves are extremely thin (rarely more than 1/8 inch) and it seems to produce fewer of them than its close cousin.  The flowers, however, are of equal size and beauty.  They seem to be universally white in color with only a hint of pink from time to time.  They are 2-3 inches long and held 6-18 inches above the ground.  What quickly separates this species apart are the lengths the anthers are held within the flower tube compared to the length of the female portion (the stigma and style).  In Simpson's rain-lily all of the reproductive structures are of equal length.  In Atamasco rain-lily the yellow anthers are much shorter than the female flower parts.
I have found this species to be as forgiving of growing conditions as Atamasco rain-lily and easy to maintain in a landscape.  But, for some reason, it has never been propagated by members of the Association of Florida Native Nurseries, AFNN, and is difficult to find from any commercial source.  We are currently trying to correct that at Hawthorn Hill and have specimens for sale.  If you are interested, please contact me:


  1. I am growing Zephyranthes Simpsonii here in Auckland in New Zealand and was checking if it needs moist soil all the time or if it will grow happily in ordinary garden conditions. It sounds like it needs moist soil all the time.

    Thank you

    Ina Crossley

  2. This species does quite well here in open pastures - areas that are in full sun and get droughty at times. I would not keep it moist all the time; moister during the typical summer rainy season (here at least) and average during the typical times of no rain. Good luck

  3. I believe it confuses many. It has thin, thread-like leaves - but unlike Z. atamasca the female part of the flower - the stigma - is much longer than the male parts of the flowers - the anthers that produce the pollen. If you see flowers, look inside and see if all the reproductive parts are the same length - or if the part that receives the pollen is sticking well above the parts that are making it. Hope this helps.


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