Thursday, August 2, 2012

American Lotus

Sometimes we're taken down a different path, or a new road we didn't intend to be on. Often it turns out to be a blessing; whether we recognize it or not, whether we realize it now or later.

I owe this sequence of photographs to a road construction detour off I-96 in West Michigan.  We had to take the the longer, but more scenic route, on our drive to see my 89-year old Mom. (I love you Mom)

Mary and I had been driving west, paralleling the Grand River (longest in Michigan), getting occasional glimpses of its broad current. Just before we reached Mom's condo in Spring Lake, I noticed an unfamiliar shade of yellow in some flowers growing in the calm water of the bayou.

After lunch with Mom, (Mary's vermicelli pasta salad) and a few hours of talk, I excused myself, and left with my camera. I walked back upstream, over a bridge, and shoved my way through dense vegetation down to the water's edge. Look at these spectacular flowers that I found:

This is not just another water lily. This is the American Lotus. Because American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) is rare in Michigan, known only in a few localities, I was surprised, amazed, and absolutely blessed to discover it here.  As I open my old Botany books to research this exquisite plant, we will be learning together. Again.

So, take off your shoes, roll up your pants and let's wade carefully into the habitat of "Nelumbo".

It grows in quiet streams, ponds and lakes. Range: Ontario to Maine; south to Florida, west to Texas and north to Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota.

This flower bud is tight and green now.

This bud is loosening, and showing a hint of color. That's a side view of the huge leaf in the background. It resembles an upside-down umbrella, or a broad, shallow funnel.

Here the petals begin to pull away and achieve a soft, pastel yellow.

Slowly, gradually, it opens. Can you feel the potential? The invitation? Anticipation?

The height of these leaves is up to three feet  (90 cm) above the water surface; up to six feet (1.8 m) from the underwater rootstock. Do you like that yellow dot in the center? How about their very circular shape? The wavy margin around the circumference of the leaf? There is more to like as we take a closer look.

I especially like the straight lines (veins) radiating from the axis of the leaf. Very prominent. These leaves are large: 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) wide, with the leaf stalk centrally attached. It is bowl-shaped when held above the water, flat and disk-like when floating on the water. This top view of the leaf reminds me of watching someone tossing raw pizza dough.

This is a good time to introduce you to a 19-letter word: superhydrophobicity. Both species of Nelumbo exhibit it; it simply means extremely water repellent. It's also called "The Lotus Effect".

Are we getting a bit too Scientific? Need a piece of art to rest your mind? Here, hang this on your wall:

(Click on any photo to enlarge)
American Lotus flowers from July through September. Usually early August in Michigan.

The flowers are radially symmetrical, and 6-10" (15-25 cm) wide. Petals and petal-like sepals are numerous (20+); stamens many. In the center of the flower is a large, upside-down, cone-shaped receptacle 3-4" (7.5-10 cm) wide; with numerous cavities, each containing a pistil. In other words, a pretty spectacular arrangement!

Here, the withered petals fall away while the receptacle develops the seeds, hidden within.

This is the top view of the receptacle. This becomes dry, hard and brown; filled with seeds (acorn-like nuts) which retain their ability to germinate even after hundreds of years. I know, hard for me to believe too.

I absolutely love this shade of soft yellow on these delicate petals in this soft photograph.

Well, the path I was led down, the new route I took, did turn out to be a blessing. I realize that. I recognized it then, and I acknowledge it now. I continue to give thanks to God for these incredible opportunities. 

"G3" ... Give the Glory to God!

Photo Location:

Grand River  (Grand River) - Spring Lake,  (Spring Lake)  Michigan


Michigan Wildflowers - Cranbrook Institute of Science c 1961 - (Cranbrook) Helen V. Smith

National Audubon Society - Fieldguide to Wildflowers - (Audubon)  Eastern Region