Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reaching For the Sky - Yellow Pond Lily

Yellow Pond Lily (c) John Ashley
Young, reddish pond lily leaves growing underwater
The yellow pond lilies (Nuphar lutea polysepala) are slowly approaching the lake surface, here at the end of the road. New leaves and flowers begin growing from the lake bottom when the ice gets thin in spring. They're supposed to prefer water that's six feet deep or less, but our plants appear to be over-achievers, growing in water that's up to 10 feet deep.

Our cool, wet spring and unusually high water levels have combined to slow the lily growth this year. In early summer, almost half of the young pads start out reddish in color. The round, yellow flowers reach for the sky on seperate stalks. Here in Montana we have three native species of pond lily, as well as one exotic species . Fish and insects hide among the stalks and pads, and ducks eat the seeds. Back in the day, Native Americans roasted the seeds like popcorn, and also ground them into flour. The starchy roots were also eaten boiled or roasted.