Sunday, July 6, 2014

Aquatic Plants

Water lilies must be a universally admired plant. In Egyptian times they were a popular motif in pottery and tombs, still highly recognizable in many forms of art.  French impressionist Claude Monet is not the only artist to admire these graceful floaters. 

A water-lily cultivar - non-native.
 And because they are so lovely, I understand why it might be hard to "just say no".  But I urge you, think twice before you introduce non-natives into a native pond or bog. We are not certain what the long term effects would be, but on a recent kayak trip, I noted these pink, eight inch non-natives look to be out-competing the native Nymphaeceae.

Fragrant Water-lily
Our Ohio native, a six inch water-lily is stunning in it's own right.  Add to its beauty an obvious fragrance, given its name: Fragrant Water-lily, Nymphaea odorata. They are relatively common on Ohio's shallow waterways.  Although lovely to look at, they can be a bit intimidating to paddle through!

Our smallest water lily, the Water-shield
Much smaller than the showy Nyphaceae, the Water-shield, Brasenia schreberi has eliptical leaves. The tiny pink flowers are rarely noticed.

The tracks of aquatic leaf miners. 
 The stunning patterns left behind by some aquatic forager created have some crazy artistic appeal. These four inch leaves captures ones imagination.  Certainly the patterns have inspired some form of art.

Water-shield in full, glorious bloom!
  And then, this caught my attention!  Unlike the other lilies, the insects were not attracted to the blooms of the Water-shield.  There were plenty of micro flies, bees and beetles scuttling about in the area, but none visited the little pink flowers.  Suddenly the wind picked up and the elongated stamens began a crazy hula dance!  I believe these are wind pollinated. Watch the video below and see what you think.

For better clarity (and Apple product users) go to to watch this film.

This is a little video of the Water-shield stamens dancing in the wind!  No insects need apply for pollination duty.

The less-than-stunning Spatterdock.
Another common flowering pond plant is Spatterdock, Nuphar lutea.  The thick mats of vegetation can pose quite a blockade to paddlers, and the smallish yellow flower is rarely sought out.

Insect appeal of the Spatterdock.
However, the insects seem to find it irresistible. There is even the pinkish colored lady-bug, Coleomegilla maculata on board. It is uncertain how she got out to sea, so to speak. If you want to learn more about our lady-bugs (beetles) go here.  Ohio has a website specifically for lady-bugs, as several species are becoming more difficult to find in recent years.

Our plants need to be pollinated to fruit and bear seed.  Most require insects to provide this essential service.  In light of our need to eat, we should be concerned with the health and well being of our pollinators.  Without them, we'll be down to eating grasses, and maybe the occasional water-shield!


  1. Where did you see all these? Especially the water shield. I've seen that one before.

  2. I've noticed that Spatterdock can have a lot of insect activity. I like this plant! Thanks so much for sharing the photos of and information about Water-shield, which is a plant I knew nothing about.

  3. Sally: These plants were on a private lake, but I have seen the three native plants routinely at Clearfork Reservoir and on the backwaters near Oak Harbor. All three are pretty common.
    Lisa: Thanks! I know I enjoyed learning more about the Water-shield and Jim McCormac passed along a scientific paper that verifies that it is wind pollinated. I appreciated that very much!