This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
The Nelumbium, and, indeed, all kinds of water plants, have received increased attention since the introduction of the Victoria regia. The N. speciosum, a finer species than the N. luteum, but much more tender, was first grown here under glass by the late Mr. Hogg; indeed, we think he was the first one to make speciosum bloom. Of N. luteum we have received a package of seed from a friend in Woodstock, Salem Co., N. J., which we shall be glad to distribute among those who may wish to grow it either under glass or in artificial ponds. It is hardy in the Northern States. With the seed we received the following notes, which will be found instructive and interesting:
"The Water Chinquapin has the largest flower of any plant native in the Northern States. Its habit is much like that of the Pond Lilies, and it is com-mon in the waters of the Southern and Western States, though rare in the Middle and Eastern. It grows readily, and can easily be introduced in favorable localities; and with its enormously large leaves and flowers would make a handsome addition to our list of water-plants. Bartram, in his Travels, (page 408,) makes the following note in regard to it: 'Next morning entered the Tombigbee, and ascended that fine river; just within its capes, on the left hand, is a large lagoon or capacious bay of still water containing many acres in surface, which at a distant view presents a very singular and diverting scene, a delusive green wavy plain of Nympheae nelumbo; the surface of the water is overspread with its round, floating leaves, while these are shadowed by a forest of umbrageous leaves, with gay flowers, waving to and fro on flexible stems, three or four feet high; these fine flowers are double as a rose, and when expanded are seven or eight inches in diameter, of a lively lemon yellow color.
The seed vessel, when ripe, is a large, truncated, dry, porous capsule, its plane or disk regularly perforated, each cell containing an oval osseous gland or nut, of the size of a filbert; when these are fully grown, before they become quite hard, they are sweet and pleasant eating, and taste like chestnuts. I fed freely on them without any injury, but found them laxative. I have observed this aquatic plant in my travels along the eastern shores of this continent, in the large rivers and lakes, from New Jersey to this place, particularly in a large pond or lake near Gape Fear River in North Carolina; this pond is almost two miles over, with twelve feet water, notwithstanding which its surface is almost covered with the leaves of this plant; they also abound in Wakaman Lake, near the same river, and in Savannah River at Augusta, and all over East Florida,'
"The tuberous roots, according to Mr. Nuttall, resemble those of the Sweet Potato, and are traversed internally by from five to seven longitudinal cavities. They are found at the depth of from twelve to eighteen inches below the surface of the earth, and are connected by running roots. When fully ripe (which is when the seeds have arrived at maturity) they become, after considerable boiling, as farinaceous, agreeable, and wholesome as the Potato. The leaves are round, and from twelve to eighteen inches in diameter; the flowers are pale yellow; the top-shaped seed-vessel is three or four inches in diameter, and has in its flat top, fifteen or twenty cavities, in which the acorn like seeds are lodged singly.
"The following notes from Loudon's Encyclopedia, upon the Nelumbium spe-ciosum, may be interesting: 'Thunberg says that it is considered as a sacred plant in Japan, and pleasing to their deities, and that the images of their idols were often drawn sitting on its large leaves. The long stalks are there eaten among other pot herbs. Loureiro relates that it abounds in muddy marshes in India and China, and is cultivated in large handsome pots in the gardens and houses of the mandarins; that there is a variety with the flower of pure white, and another with a very beautiful luxuriant flower, having about a hundred large petals, white or rose-colored. Both roots and seeds are esculent, sapid, and wholesome. In China it is called Lieu-wha, and the seeds, and slices of the hairy root, with the kernels of apricots and walnuts, and alternate layers of rice, were frequently presented to the British ambassador and his suite at breakfast given by some of the principal mandarins. The Chinese have always held this plant in such high value that at length they regarded it as sacred. That character, how. ever, has not limited it to merely ornamental purposes, for the roots are not only served up in summer with rice, but they are also laid up in salt and vinegar for the winter.
The seeds are somewhat of the size and form of an acorn, and of a taste more delicate than that of almonds. The ponds are generally covered with it, and exhibit a very beautiful appearance when it is in flower, and the flowers are no less fragrant than handsome. It grows spontaneously in China, and is propagated in the open air with ease, both by the seed and root It is said that the seeds will keep forty years, vegetate freely, and flower the first year.'
"In green-houses the Nelumbium should be grown in a tub or large pot, in a rich loamy soil. The pot or tub should be kept full of water all the time the plants are growing, but may be allowed to get dry when the flowering season is over. The plants may be increased by dividing at the root, but it is obtained more readily from seeds, which vegetate freely".