Things are about to get ugly

American lotus bloom

Enjoy it while it lasts. This American Lotus (aka “water lily”) will drop its petals and assume its more pedestrian and less attractive role as a seed pod in just a day or two. From there, it’s all down hill. Life expectancy, as ordained for the lotus, from this point is short. The process has already started as evidenced by the brown freckles of a few of the petals. Yesterday, the complexion was probably pristine.

As I considered the pitifully short active life cycle of the American Lotus, (erroneously aka water-lily), my recall mechanism took me back to 1971. It was then that the late Jerry Reed, a talented and energetic musician and actor, came forth with a country classic, When you’re hot, you’re hot. At one point in the song, as he rolls out his story of success and a quick plummet therefrom, Jerry bemoans hearing a judge say “Ninety-days, Jerry-boy, when you’re hot, you’re hot.” Few terms could better describe the life and times of the American Lotus.

American lotus

Click on the lotus for more blooms and comments

In these parts, the Lotus begins to seriously stir around the first of June when buds first appear. A few days later, the lotus engine is running at full-throttle.  Huge, absolutely spectacular blossoms spring forth from the buds. Once that happens, think belt-fed buds and blooms. The colony is hey-look-me-over, bloom-city on steroids. Enjoy it while you can. It won’t last long. Ninety days later, the colony looks like a lotus slum.

However, you can enjoy a really up-close and personal shot of a peaked-out lotus and its attendant bug, plus a couple of additional lotus pictures on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here while you look. It’s worth the trip.

Meanwhile back at the pond, precious few weeks after the lotus onslaught, the plant goes about its serious intent of surviving to make a repeat performance the next year. So far, so good. Ancient Egyptians revered the lotus seed as a sacred object and included them in the booty with which they populated their most highfalutin tombs. Horticulturists say they have planted and raised plants from these seeds. Needless to say, the lotus family has perfected the art of survival.

Lotus colony with blooms and seed pods

Here’s how the neighborhood looks after Mother Nature’s survival instinct overwhelms the lotus beauty contest. What were once blooms are now seed pods. The blooms you see aren’t far behind.

When the lotus nursery mode kicks in, petals drop and the once spectacular bloom becomes a gnarled and pimpled seed pod. It gets worse. The seed pod opens and it appears like a dastardly space monster with a dozen or so beady eyes staring ray-gun holes in your soul — in preparation of having you for dessert — after it just ate Kansas City. Not to fear, they are just seeds in a lowly pod. And they are edible, as are the roots.

Lotus seed pods

This is not a space monster and it is OK for children and the elderly to view. It is a humble lotus pod showing you it’s edible seeds. Yes, I have not sampled the lotus largesse. The green pods will soon become like the brown ones.

As the neighborhood goes downhill, the once impressive "lily-pad" lotus leaves, having done their duty to nourish the new generation commit hair-kari in favor of the new generation.

As the neighborhood goes downhill, the once impressive “lily-pad” lotus leaves, having done their duty to nourish the new generation commit hara-kari in favor of the new generation. The leaf to the right has completed its grisly task. The one in the center is a work-in-progress.

Whodathunk that a plant could give us a lesson in humility. We rise, we fall, we come back. Thank you, nelumbo lutea.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.

PS: These images are from my favorite lotus colony in a pond at south of the junction of South Hazel Street and I-530 in my headquarters city, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

They ain’t lilies

Water lily bloom and bud

This is not really a water lily. It is an American Lotus, with a scientific name of Nelumbo lutea. However, since I am a card-carrying denizen of L.A. (lower Arkansas), I am yielding to the lexicon of the land and will refer to the poesy as a “lilly.” You will see more of it.

Water lily bloom with a bug

Click on the flower to see and read more at Corndancer dot Com

The home waters for this water lily are at one of the busiest intersections in this neck of the woods. I’m hoping this post gets a lot of local heads nodding, “Yep, ah’ve seen them flares,” but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. The jury is still out.

Regardless of notice or scorn, the flowers are interesting. I shot all of the pictures for this story in three days. During those three days I noticed an accelerated life cycle. I shot the picture above on day one, not knowing then that I was at a starting point.

Before we go too much further, may I suggest that you go to the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot com and see more pictures and how this story started. We’ll wait here.

Water lilies

This is the same bud and same flower as the top picture in different light and a slightly different angle, a little less than 24 hours later. That’s a lot of life cycle in a short period of time. Notice the stem of the former bloom in the fold of the leaf. Scroll up for comparison

Overnight, the big bloom dropped its leaves and the bud bloomed. The dots at the top of what’s left of the big flower are seeds which comprise the next generation. The next step is below. The yellow pistil (I’m recalling biology 101A here, so forgive me if I have er, ah . . . misnomer-ed), will turn green, enlarge and disgorge its cargo of seeds for the next generation. Perhaps this is not terribly strange since enlarging is common among soon-to-bear-young creatures. All the while, the pod, nee pistil, is facing the sun. That changes too.

Enlarged water lily seed pod

A few days ago, this was a yellow pistil. Is it now a s “seed pod?” Who knows? It still has a drop of water clinging from an overnight thunderstorm.

In the final stage, the pod is empty, dried, turned brown, and returned to the “full upright position.” Once this happens, interior decorators cast their eyes on the spent pods to include in their collections of dried sticks and leaves. If you’ve ever wondered what those weird looking things were, now you know. American Lotus skeletons.

Water lily seed pod

The final stage. It’s mission accomplished, the plant will finally wither and drop into the pond with its ancestors. That is, unless an enterprising supplier to the interior decoration business harvests it first.

According to what I can find out, most of the plant is edible, particularly the tubers in the plant’s root system. The same source says that the plants were originally confined to the southeastern lower 48 and that as Indians migrated north, they brought the plants with them as a source of food.

Grasshopper on water lily

It is said that migrating Indians brought the lilies from the southeastern lower 48 and a source of food. This grasshopper looks convinced.

October 15, 2012 – See how the pond has changed

Since I see the pond at least twice daily, most of the time more than that, I can observe subtle changes which in aggregate a month later are not subtle, but dramatic. The lilies are gone. All of the giant leaves, save a scant few, have withered and turned brown. Most have fallen into the pond.

The ubiquitous yellow flowers of a southeast Arkansas fall have replaced the lilies at the edges of the pond. This afternoon, the pond was like a mirror and the mid-October afternoon sun bathed the pond in irresistible light. I captured three images to show what most people miss when driving past the pond.

Pond at I-530 and Hazel

You can see how close I-530 is the pond. Not much more than “rock-throwing” distance. The diagonal in the middle of the picture is the access road from the 1-530 / Hazel Street exchange.

Traffic sign reflecting in pond

This is the pond and sign reflection from the fence down. The colors of fall are developing, emphasized by the golden light of a setting sun. A few remaining lily leaves are on their last legs in the background along the fence.

truck from interstate highway reflecting in a pond

Since still photography does not record sound, I’ll have to fill you in. Despite the serene appearance, the pond is inundated with interstate highway noise, which is the price we pay for convenient transportation modes. This 18-wheeler reflected in the pond as it sped by. Finally got it timed right after about 40 shots.

Yellow wild flowers

A sure sign that fall and cool, crisp mornings are not far away.

While one plant is biting the big one, others, harbingers of coming fall, are peaking out. Here in LA, the roadways burst with yellow flowers in the waning weeks of summer.

rainbow at the end of a road

A few seconds later, the rainstorm obliterated the rainbow. This is the only shot.

Last week, a good friend called to advise me of a huge rainbow on the east side of our fair city. I beat a path to what I figured would be the best place to shoot it. The accompanying storm was crashing headlong to the same location. I arrived a few seconds before the storm and squeezed off one barely acceptable shot before the storm obliterated the rainbow. I am grateful for that one shot.

And I am grateful you dropped by.


Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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