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The Native Plants Journal 5.1 (2004) 14-17

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Propagation Protocol for American Lotus Nelumbo Lutea Willd.

Director, Ecologist
JFNew Native Plant Nursery
128 Sunset Drive
Walkerton, IN 46574

Nelumbonaceae, seed, bareroot production
USDA NRCS (2002)

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Photo by Ann Murray, University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

American lotus (Nelumbo lutea Willd. [Nelumbonaceae]) is native to the eastern and central portions of the US ranging from Maine to Wisconsin and southward from Florida to Texas. Nelumbo lutea also occurs in native stands throughout Central America and into northern South America. Small native populations can still be found in the West Indian Archipelago and the extreme Southeastern portion of Ontario, Canada.

Worldwide there are only 2 native species of Nelumbo. The genus is represented by Nelumbo lutea (synonyms: Nelumbopentapetala or Nelumbium luteum) and Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn. (synonyms: Nelumbospeciosa or Nelum-bium speciosum). Nelumbo nucifera, which has pinkish white flowers, is native to northern Australia, the Philippines, the Orient, Egypt, and the Volga River delta. All other lotus species are cultivated varieties of these 2 species. [End Page 15]

Nelumbo nucifera has been introduced into North and South America as an ornamental plant. Escapees have become naturalized in lakes, ponds, and waterways. In some places, this introduced species has become invasive.

Common names for Nelumbo lutea include American lotus, water-chinquapin, and yellow lotus. Common names for Nelumbo nucifera include sacred lotus, Oriental lotus, and East Indian lotus. This article will deal exclusively with our native North American species, Nelumbo lutea.

Natural History

Nelumbo lutea is an emergent, obligate species locally occurring in lake and pond margins. Some populations are found in headwater lakes of riparian corridors.American lotus prefers water depths from 60 cm to 2.1 m (2 to 7 ft). Most plants establish in shallower water and grow out to deeper water.

American lotus is a long-lived perennial with cylindrical, spongy rhizomes that produce thick tubers in the fall. It is listed as endangered in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, threatened in Michigan, and extirpated in Delaware.

Nelumbo lutea blooms from June to September depending on geographic location.The flowers open on a single stalk and are cream to yellow in color, ranging from 7.6 to 20 cm (3 to 8 in) in diameter when fully open . The flowers usually open up in early to mid morning and close by early to mid afternoon.A single bloom lasts from 3 to 4 d. Once the petals fall off, a seedpod covered with small holes is revealed. In a flower that was successfully pollinated, most holes contain a single round, developing seed. The seeds are actually located in the woody receptacle—the distinctive inverted cone (obconic) that looks like a showerhead. The hard, brown seeds, about 1 cm (0.4 in) in diameter, are renowned for surviving for decades, waiting for the proper conditions to germinate. I have stored scarified lotus seeds in a cup on my desk for several years—they germinated 6 d after being submerged in warm water.

The leaves are orbicular in shape with crenulate margins. They range from 30 to 61 cm (1 to 2 ft) in diameter with the petiole attached to the leaf at the center. The peltate, palmate leaves are slightly concave, giving the impression of a shallow bowl. Unlike the leaves of American white water lily (Nym-phaea odorata Ait. ssp. tuberosa (Paine) Wiersma & Hellquist [Nymphaea-ceae]), the leaves of N. lutea do not have a radial cut. Leaves arise directly from the rhizome and can either be floating on the water or raised 30 to 46 cm (1 to 1.5 ft) above the water.

A number of American Indian tribes, including the Comanche, Dakota, Hu-ron, Meskwaki, Ojibwa, Omaha, and Potawatomi used various parts of the lotus plant as a source of supplemental food. All parts of the plant were eaten. The hard seeds were gathered and added to soups or roasted like chestnuts and the tubers and shoots...


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