A Southern September Surprise: The Red Spider Lily


Dear Reader:

Yesterday, my neighbor Jane, called me and said that I just had to stop by and see’ nothing short of a miracle‘ growing in front of her ditch and fence.

She had gotten my attention…I grabbed my Iphone and headed over. Jane was standing by her driveway pointing down on the ground and smiling broadly. One lone red spider lily stood ramrod straight, as if saluting life again. (And perhaps it was)

Jane explained to me that two or more decades ago…she had planted the perennial red spider lily bulbs between the ditch and fence leading into her front yard. For years she had a vision of red loveliness as they multiplied over and over.

Then one year…the lilies got accidentally mowed down…(mistakened for weeds)…and then the town re-drew some boundary lines concerning the ditches and as a result the red spider lilies were gone.

At least a decade has passed since this incident and suddenly today there was the one red spider lily (title photo) back home again and very much alive.

In Japan (original home of these flowering bulbs) the red spider lily is called the ” Flower of Death.” This nickname refers to ‘the other side’; its bright colors said to guide souls into the afterlife.

For this reason…red spider lilies are popular at funerals and planted in cemeteries.


The story behind how this Japanese lily made it America is quite interesting…especially to an old history teacher:

The History of the Bulb

In 1854 Commodore William Perry opened the ports to Japan aboard some of the U.S. Navy’s first steam powered ships while under orders from President Millard Fillmore. Aboard one ship in the fleet was a certain Captain William Roberts, who had a keen eye for horticultural treasures.

While in Japan, Captain Roberts acquired three bulbs of a plant with red spidery type blooms. His niece would later described the bulbs as being, “in such a dry condition that they did not show signs of life until the War between the States.” These three bulbs survived and eventually thrived in their new North Carolina home before spreading across the Southern U.S.

This triploid mule has proven Texas tough, and although it does not produce seed, it offsets new bulbs quite readily. It also produces more bulbs and larger flowers than its modern counterpart from Japan. Some say that the flowers bloom two weeks after the first good fall rain. If there is no rain during the month of September, the bulbs have been known to not bloom altogether


Because the red spider lilies line up so well in their bright red “outfits” (as if in military rows) they are sometimes referred to as “British Soldiers.”


Three things in the South bring the spider lily back to life…cooler weather, lower humidity, and a good rain in September. *Since we just got all three…I think Jane’s “miracle” was definitely assisted by Mother Nature.

In fact the red spider lilies are called the strongest fall indicator in the South:

“Red Spider Lilies are the alarm clock for the summer sleeping South.” – Chris Wiesinger

I must start looking for some red spider lily bulbs to plant in my garden… All the stories has gotten my attention. I love a flower who can tell a good story!

So until tomorrow…Let us always be surprised and delighted by life and miracles…because it makes God so happy to see us smile.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*Yesterday I had three great comments from readers who pondered certain things in life under the heading – “Creative Mistake?”

*Johnny Johnson mentioned mosquitoes…he has a hard time wondering why God produced such an irritating flying insect, who not only bites, but drives you crazy with the buzzing.

*Michele Robertson said her questionable “creatures” were fire ants. There were none in Canada and they make her life miserable in the lowcountry. (mine too!)

Michele, Johnny, and I are going to make a pact…whoever goes first…will ask God about these two creatures and get the information back to the other two….deal gang?

Jo, in all her wit and wisdom, didn’t choose an annoying insect or anything else but considered this thought:

Loved the story of the acorn and pumpkin. How true it is that we often try to make our will, God’s will. We may pray something like, “Lord give me patience, and please hurry” or some other way we try to second guess Him. Your story is a great reminder of Who always knows best.”

IMG_7480*Look at my birthday surcie I got from Chris Frazier…she wrote me that she found this homemade fairy in a little country restaurant and craft store near Traveler’s Rest….It’s specialty is tomato pie…she immediately thought of me. (Thank you Chris..the fairy is so adorable!!!…And you can just insert a photo of my round face in a tomato pie… because we are one in the spirit and stomach!)

IMG_7481 (2)

*Three weeks from today Legally Pink will be “legally” strutting down the roads marked on Daniel Island for the Race for the Cure to raise money for research to rid the world of breast cancer.

My breast cancer Chinese lantern, hanging from my window in my computer room, reminds me of the upcoming event every time there is a strong breeze. I feel something softly touch my shoulder and head…telling me to get working and get  walking!


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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1 Response to A Southern September Surprise: The Red Spider Lily

  1. Johnny Johnson says:

    You got it, it’s a deal gire ants and mosquitoes, we’ll surely get an answer that we never thought about! Bit if I get there first, I’ll let you both know the answer!
    And tomatoes pie! What! That is a Southern delight to say the least. Best in the Summer using vine ripened tomatoes and good Vidalia onions!


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