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


9 thoughts on “American Lotus”

  1. I am laughing at myself. Almost every picture I would think, now this is my favorite picture. Then I realized each picture was my favorite. Thanks for sharing the detour blessing with all of us. Beautiful! : )


  2. Rich, fabulous pictures; and thanks for the lesson.
    I live along the Mississippi in North Western Illinois, right on the border with Iowa. These plants, or ones very like them, grow along the shoreline in areas that are sheltered, because of river bends and sand bars, from the current.
    I have always in my mind called them water lilies, and maybe they are a different species (is that the right word?) than the lotus, however, they look just like your surprising find; so beautiful.
    Thanks for sharing because I know I will pay more attention to them as I bike or walk by them; appreciating even more their beauty and originality.
    Thanks, Kate


  3. Kate:

    Thank you for the lovely response; so thorough, informative, and appealing.

    Because of your precise habitat description, it sounds like you are viewing the American Lotus.

    Thanks for following WWFN, and please pass it around to friends and family.




  4. Rich

    This is one of the most beautiful groups of photographs you have taken and captures the light of the lotus so well. I would be honored to hang any one of these photos on our wall. Exquisite!!



  5. Mary:

    I too, would be honored to hang some of my photographs on our walls. Perhaps someday when we have more income. For now, we'll have to be content with seeing them on our computer screen.

    Thank you for your loyalty.




  6. Rich and Mary,

    You two are truly a match made in heaven. To witness the love, admiration and devotion you share is like listening to a gentle lovesong.

    Your sparkling eyes say it all.

    I am blessed to know you both.

    See you soon,
    Fellow Traveler

    P.S. Rich- LOVE your exquisite pics and spirit filled prose- keep up the great work.


  7. Fellow Traveler:

    I know who you are, but that's okay to remain anonymous.

    Thank you dearly for your poetic note. I appreciate your observations; and that the love between Mary and I is noticeable and admired.

    Thank you for our wonderful time together in Colorado.




  8. Truly sumptuous photography that uplifts the sprit. This is not just about the technical skill or the opportunistic eye – this is about an artist who truly appreciates and understands beauty AND knows love… That is what gives these photographs their extra lustre in my opiniion. Terrific work – with best wishes Scott Surely a book of major exhibition can't be far away – to share this inspiration more widely?


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