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American Lotus, Nelumbo lutea, the largest flower native to North America and one of the largest in the world. Definitely not a water lilly, it's the closest living relative of the sycamore tree. Blooms July through fall.

Photos and story by Eric Pavlak. All photos were taken on Turner Creek, a tributary to the Sassafras River a few miles before it enters the Chesapeake Bay.


It grows in fresh or brackish water from about two to six feet deep. Its native range extends from southern Canada to Florida, from the Atlantic Coast to both sides of the Mississippi. Its leaves can either float on the surface of the water, or extend many feet above it on stalks.

It was fairly recently discovered through genetic sequencing that the American Lotus is the closest living relative of the sycamore tree. If you were to compare the surface of a lotus leave with a sycamore leave, you would immediately see the similarity. The lotus leaf is perhaps the most water-repellent surface in occurring in nature. Water forms thick beads on the surface of lotus leaves.


In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the American Lotus is listed as endangered, as it is in several other states. In Connecticut it is listed as a weed, with a ban on planting. Several other states list it as a noxious weed.

If you do an internet search, you will likely find both seeds for sale and poisons to kill it. Why? Because this beautiful plant fouls power boat propellers. It presents little problem for human powered and wind powered craft. Click here for photos of an AMC trip.

You can see the plants from land. There is excellent hiking and bicycling in the area, particularly road biking, with miles of scenic, lightly travled roads.

Links:    Turner's Creek Park      Sassafras Natural Resource Management Area