Spatterdock. Cow lily. Yellow Water Lily. Nuphar Lutea. Most of what they are is underwater and not easily seen. They grow from rhizomes buried in the mud at the bottom of shallow sections of Long Lake. The Narrows and Ghost Bay are home to our main colonies. Both are also home to the more delicate fragrant white water lily. And colonies is the right term. The rhizomes spread and pretty soon a shallow lake could be up to its eyeballs in water lilies. The rhizome sends up stalks. Most of the spatterdock leaves, at least the biggest ones, float on the surface. They are perennials–dying back in the fall and sprouting again each spring.
Traditional medicine finds uses for these plants. The stalks are edible, but are sometimes very bitter. The seeds are edible and can be ground into a flour. I recommend taking a pass on Spatterdock muffins, though, unless you’re really really hungry. Beavers and muskrats dive down to eat the rhizomes. Beavers, and all kind of waterfowl, will also eat the seeds. As you would notice paddling around the lake in the summer, one common use of the leaves is as an incubator for frog and bug eggs. Long Lake’s dragonflies and damsel flies often use the leaves as resting places. They helicopter down and don’t even make a dent in the leaf when they land.
The Narrows connect the upper and lower lobes of Long Lake. This is near the South end of the Narrows. Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table has nothing on this special spot. The table is set with flowers, appetizers (but these varieties of mushrooms might be poisonous). An altogether nice place setting, just waiting for the meal to arrive. I’ve seen dragonflies land on the stumps, resting on their way to their next mosquito. Small bluegill sometimes gather in the shade. I like to park my kayak nearby and just watch to see who turns up.
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias Incarnata)
Smooth Rose, Meadow Rose (Rosa Blanda)
The small peninsula that helps frame our bay is filled with these beauties. I’m no gardener. And flower identification is not my skill. But I’m pretty sure that the top flower is swamp milkweed. Asclepias incarnata. They like to grow at the water’s edge, where this bunch is thriving. Their roots are especially adapted to living in wet soil that is oxygen starved.
Most varieties of milkweed are poisonous. They contain cardiac glycosides that can interfere with heart function. Some bugs love to munch on them anyway. Milkweed beetles. Milkweed bugs And the caterpillars that end up as Monarch butterflies. These bugs tolerate the poison and typically signal their poisonousness to birds by being colored yellow and black. You can learn a lot about swamp milkweed here and here. Birds use the hairs of the milkweed to line their nests. Oh, the flowers aren’t poisonous. Still, I would think it best not to toss them in your next salad.
The second beauty is Smooth Rose, a/k/a Meadow Rose. Fancy scientific name: Rosa Blanda. It grows to about three feet high. It likes moist soil. With Long Lake constantly lapping up onto the peninsula, it can’t get much more moist. And this year we’re going for the record on rainfall. The wildflowers are apparently lovin’ in.