Dirt on Gardening

As the heat increases, our thoughts turn toward water. The Ozarks are a great place to enjoy water. Fishing and swimming in streams, rivers and ponds are an excellent pastime for an Ozark summer.

Lotuses and water lilies are plants that have always fascinated me. They develop dense leaves that cover patches of water creating safe places for frogs, snakes, turtles, fish, ducks and other aquatic species. It’s not uncommon to catch a nice smallmouth bass near lotus leaves as the fish enjoys the shade and protection of water lilies.

It’s also not uncommon for the fisherman to lose a hook and bait in a clump of lotuses. Lotuses are tough, reluctant to come loose when hooked.

Commonly known as the American lotus, these plants were an important part of the Native American diet. Botanically referred to as Nelumbo lutea, lotuses and other water lilies were dug up by Native Americans. They used their feet to dislodge the starchy roots of the lotus from the bottom of the river or stream.

Young shoots of the lotus are eaten as “greens.” After bloom, the lotus grows a circular pod, light green in color that is studded with several round seeds. The green seeds taste like chestnuts and are safe to eat, also a part of the Native American diet.

The lotus pod turns brown and dries as it ripens. When the seeds of the pod are completely ripe, they can be removed from the pod, roasted and eaten. Waterfowl are also connoisseurs of lotus seeds.

The lotus leaf and flower are held above the water. The leaves are dark green and vary in size, but they can reach up to two feet in diameter. The leaves shed water. Small snakes or frogs may rest on top of the lotus leaves.

The lotus flower has 20 or more sepals and petals. They are light yellow in color and reach up to eight inches in diameter.

The flowers and leaves of the lotus can cover large areas, and this is known as colonization. The American lotus can be found blooming in water from June through September. The plants go dormant in the winter and return the following spring. The native lotus can also be grown in home water features.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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