American lotus

Nelumbo lutea

A bit of a surprise – there is a lotus that grows wild in Ontario! It is found only towards the extreme southern part of the province, and according to wiki it was introduced in various regions by the Native Americans who carried it along with them as a food source (the tuber). It is fully hardy to zone 5, as long as the water is deep enough and the roots won’t freeze.

Nelumbo lutea foliage

Nelumbo lutea foliage; yellow flowers in late summer

In warmer regions it is quite a colonizer and also called water-chinquapin. Supposedly, it is the largest native wildflower, at least in wetlands, its leaves reaching more than 60 cm in diameter! The seeds are surely among the largest too!

Nelumbo lutea seeds

Nelumbo lutea seeds – 1 mm grid

I cannot abstain from trying to germinate a couple of these seeds. They need to be scarified or nicked and should germinate in water after +/- 2 weeks. For scarification you can use sandpaper or, for large seeds like these, a file. When scarifying the question is always – how much of the seed coat should be removed? It varies from species to species but the general rule is: ‘less is more’. When done well, the seeds will slightly enlarge in a few days; if not, they can be easily scarified some more.

I am sure everyone knows that lotus seeds can remain viable for several decades, given their extremely hard seed coats, so most probably I didn’t file them enough. My short nails, have gotten even shorter.

UPDATE – July 20, the seedlings were planted :)

2 replies
  1. Tina
    Tina says:

    I recall a lotus that blooms in some of the lakes high in the Rocky Mountains (can’t remember the names of the lakes, but they’re on certain trails). So gorgeous and somehow, unexpected. I didn’t know that the seeds are viable for so long, but I suppose it makes sense.

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      I don’t know if that could have been a lotus (Nelumbo) in the Rocky Mts. lakes Tina. Maybe a Nymphaea sp…
      If anyone else is interested to read the wiki stub about the oldest viable seeds (other sources are available):
      “The third oldest viable seed recorded is the carbon-14-dated 1,300-year-old sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), recovered from a dry lake bed in northeastern China in 1995”.

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