In midsummer the Illinois River and its adjoining lakes, as well as many other still waters over much of Illinois, become a land of pale yellow lotuses blossoming, acre upon acre, across the state. Late in spring the rolled-up, red-brown leaves push out of the mud, and as they emerge in the sunlight they become a soft, silvery green. The convoluted, crinkled, twirled up leaf slowly spreads wide in the warm sunlight and becomes a big leaf platter, slightly cupped, with a depression at its center where the stem joins from below. Here almost every summer morning a few drops of night dew roll down the slippery leaf surface and come to rest, mercury-like, in a glistening-globe of water.
Nelumbo lutea (Willd.) Pers.
July - August Swamps, lakes.
By the time the leaves have spread to their usual width of a foot or more, a big, egg-shaped bud comes pushing up from the mud, is encased in several layers of corded scales and sepals, and finally stands five feet high or more from its base in the lake. Early one July morning the sepals fall away and the delicate, enormous flower, pale yellow and exotically scented, opens in majesty. The center is made up of a large, flat-topped, peppershaker pistil in the surface of which the seeds form. Around it cluster dozens of lightly poised, dusty yellow stamens. Rows of big oval petals are arranged around the splendid center.
From mid-July until early September, the lotus is the outstanding blossom of Illinois. The great petals fall and the tall stem with its shaker-top of seeds ripens and browns. The leaves even before frost grow tattered and brown, and sink into the water. The seed pods bend over and fall in the water, where the pods disintegrate enough to liberate the large seeds.