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.
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