Mission Statement

Bearing Witness to Local Natural History-- from the wildness of Indiana

Saturday, August 25, 2012

American Lotus: A Sacred Symbol of Beauty

American lotus, Nelumbo lutea, has been in bloom for a while now. It grows in a local wetland area and is a beautiful sight. This plant is prolific and has to be managed or it will over-take a wetland.

The plant's genus name, Nelumbo means "sacred bean. In many cultures the American lotus is sacred and a symbol of beauty.

It grows along the muddy shores of ponds, quiet streams, or rivers from the water's edge to a depths over 6 feet. The plant propagates from seed but also from rhizomes.

The crinkled leaf slowly opens during warm days and becomes a large pad with a depression in the center where the stem connects from underneath. The leaves are often a width of 1-2 feet. The leaves float on the surface or extend 1- 2 feet above the water.

Flower buds arise from the same root-stock as the leaves. The bud is large and egg- shaped, and encased in several layers of scales and sepals. In the center of each flower is a flat- topped, buttery colored receptacle. This is the pistil (the female parts), and clustered around it are dozens of yellow stamens (male). The flowers open in the morning and, at first, reveal only the female parts. This leads to cross-pollination because the insects that earlier visited older flowers with exposed stamens now crawl over the pistils of the young flowers.

 Each flower closes at night and lasts about 2 days. After the petals drop off, the center of the flower continues to grow and eventually reaches a diameter of about 3 inches. In this pod are about 20 holes, each containing a seed. The seedpods bend over and fall into the water where they will rot and release the seeds. In spring some of the seeds will begin to germinate, float to the surface, and drift ashore. Here, at the water's edge, a rhizome begins growing and a new plant begins its journey.

Beauty abounds in a pond or stream where the "Sacred Bean" grows-- a most definite symbol of beauty.

All Photos: © Joni L. James 


Deb Crecelius said...

First, your photography is excellent...each one of these.
Second, the last photo (underside of leaf with reflection)...extra wow.
Third, this plant is amazing...
and I have never seen one up-close.
I'm sure I've seen this from a distance, but I've never seen inside one before.
Totally loving this flower.
Thank you.

Joni James said...

Thank you for the kind words. They are beautiful plants-- fascinating to study--from every plant part and angle!