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Illinois hunting and fishing

Wildflowers on the water

July 13, 2011 at 07:54 AM

The State Journal-Register

It looks like a plant more apt to be found in a tropical setting, not flourishing in central Illinois.

The American lotus is unlike many of the understated prairie wildflowers identified with Illinois.

This one’s not small and hard to find. It’s big and showy.

It has a flower described by some as a “showerhead” for the pistils that are embedded in a structure at the flower’s center, surrounded by numerous stamens.

The flowers can be up to 10 inches across.

According to eFloras.org, American Indians probably helped the plant expand its range beyond large river floodplains in the central and eastern United States.

Its tubers were used for food, so the plant likely was introduced to new locations north and east.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, it is found over about two-thirds of the United States, including as far west as California.

A Field Guide To The Wetlands Of Illinois, published by the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources, says the leaves of American lotus can be two feet or more in diameter.

The leaves float on the surface and are anchored to the bottom by their stem.

Like many wetland plants, its seeds can remain viable in the soil for many years until favorable conditions for germination return.

The plant can form colonies that cover several acres. In some places it is considered to be weedy, and in Connecticut it is considered to be potentially invasive.

And the lotus beds won’t disappoint as they enter their blooming period starting now.

The lotus is often confused with the water lily, and its large floating leaves referred to as lily pads.

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.


Illinois hunting and fishing

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