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American Lotus, Water Lotus, Water Chinquapin, Yellow Lotus - Nelumbo lutea


Family: Nelumbonaceae - Indian lotus Genus Common Name: Lotus Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Herb Aquatic
Nelumbo lutea - American Lotus, Water Lotus, Water Chinquapin, Yellow Lotus. Nelumbonaceae - the Lotus-lily family - is monotypic - Nelumbo is the only genus in the family. There are two species of this aquatic plant, both found in the United States. Nelumbo nucifera - Sacred Lotus - is an introduced species, and has white or pink tepals, and has naturalized as a garden escapee in a number of states in the eastern half of the U.S., tending toward the southern part. Nelumbo lutea is native to the United States, and has a much wider distribution than its introduced cousin. It has pale yellow tepals, so pale in some cases that they appear to be white. The tepals fall off sooner on N. nucifera than they do on N. lutea.

The Lotus name is shared with another unrelated plant genus in the Fabaceae (Pea) family, which goes by the common name Trefoil (although there are plants commonly called Trefoil which are not in Lotus.) Bird's-foot Trefoil is probably the most commonly known species in Lotus.

Nelumbo lutea - American Lotus - is threatened or endangered in Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Found in:
AL, AR, CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI

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Nelumbo lutea

Distribution of Nelumbo lutea in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 25 Jun 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Riverwalk, Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2013-July-15Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The tepals of American Lotus become more petal-like closer to the center of the blossom, where they surround the large seed receptacle.
Nelumbo lutea

Site: Riverwalk, Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2013-July-20Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The blossom of Nelumbo lutea can be nearly a foot across as it spreads its pale yellow tepals. The filaments of the stamens are a darker orangish yellow, matching the initial color of the stigma atop the receptacle. The stamens are a pale yellow, more closely matching the color of the tepals.
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Nelumbo lutea

Site: Riverwalk, Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2013-July-15Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The receptacle can be nearly 3 inches across. Each of those protrusions is a pistil embedded in the flattened top of the receptable, and will form a nut-like seed.
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Nelumbo lutea

Site: Riverwalk, Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2013-July-16Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Nelumbo lutea is an aquatic plant, growing in ponds and marshes which have water year-round. It sometimes shares habitat with - Swamp Rose - a wild rose of wetlands which can also grow in shallow standing water. Here you see the rose hips of Swamp Rose below the blossom of American Lotus.
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Nelumbo lutea

Site: Riverwalk, Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2013-July-15Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
American Lotus can grow in large colonies, causing some to consider the plant “weedy” in areas where they want the waterway to remain open. The tepals of the flowers are such a pale yellow as to appear white when seen in contrast to the dark green leaves above which they are held.
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Nelumbo lutea

Site: Riverwalk, Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2013-June-22Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The leaves of American Lotus may be held above the water, or may float on top of it. There is a report that Nelumbo nucifera (Sacred Lotus, not native to the United States) channels pressurized air down thru the petioles, which may explain the flotation. That pressurized air is vented thru the stomata in the center of the leaf. I assume that American Lotus does the same. The leaves can be up to about 2 feet in diameter, attaching to the petiole at the center. The petiole can be over 6 feet long, allowing it to grow in moderatly deep water. Notice that water beads up on the surface of the leaf.
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Nelumbo lutea

Site: Riverwalk, Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2013-July-16Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
While held upright initially, the seedpod starts nodding toward the surface by the time the flower has dropped its tepals.
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Nelumbo lutea

Site: Riverwalk, Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2013-January-11Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Native Americans ate the nut-like seeds and the plant tubers.
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Nelumbo lutea

Site: Riverwalk, Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2013-January-12Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Modern Americans use the seed pods in floral decorations. While held upright initially, it nods toward the water surface at maturity.
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Nelumbo lutea

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer