American lotus (Nelumbo lutea)
American lotus is an aquatic emergent perennial with large, solitary flowers that are pale yellow in color and are very fragrant. It has one of the largest blooms of any flowering plant in America. Its leaves are large and round with undulating margins, and are often elevated out of the water. The lotus’ unique seed pod emerges as an inverted cone-like structure from the center of the bloom. As the pod develops, it turns from pale yellow to dark brown and resembles a shower head (see photo, right). The seeds are eaten by water fowl. Young seeds, as well as roots, shoots and blossoms are edible to humans.
American lotus occurs naturally in still to slow moving freshwater habitats such as along lake and pond edges, and in freshwater marshes.
Plants in the Nelumbo genus (of which there are only two worldwide) were once considered members of the Nymphaeaceae (waterlily) family in the order Nymphaeales, but molecular studies recently concluded that Nelumbo species actually belong in the Proteales order, along with such plants as the American sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis).
Family: Nelumbonaceae (Lotus family)
Hardiness: North, Central and South Florida (Zones 7-11)
Soil: Wet (submerged), acidic soil
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 2-5 feet tall
Garden tips: American lotus is a fast-growing plant that can be propagated by division as well as by seeds. For more information on growing American lotus, see the American lotus publication from UF/IFAS Extension.
Amerlican lotus seeds are available through the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative (http://www.floridawildflowers.com/products/Nelumbo-lutea-%252d-American%C2%A0Lotus.html).
To see where American lotus occurs naturally, visit http://www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=2954.
-- Stacey Matrazzo