Northland Nature: Water-lilies in the shallows play host to insects
Sunny days and warmer temperatures greeted us as we passed the solstice and entered the new season. Nature is rapidly revealing the summer to us. Birds that returned from migration and sang on territory last month are now feeding hungry fledgling...
Sunny days and warmer temperatures greeted us as we passed the solstice and entered the new season. Nature is rapidly revealing the summer to us. Birds that returned from migration and sang on territory last month are now feeding hungry fledglings in those same sites. Elderberries and fly honeysuckles that held flowers in May now hold red berries. And the discovery of a few ripe wild strawberries tells us that many more are soon to come.
Anyone traveling in the Northland at this time cannot help but notice the huge proliferation of wild flowers along the roadsides and fields. Daisies, hawkweeds and clovers are most numerous, but a closer look reveals buttercups, yarrows, trefoils, vetches and the robust cow parsnip. But these open sites are not the only places where plants take advantage of the long days and flourish in late June.
A few days ago, as I was passing a shallow lake, I stopped to look out over a nearby bay. Despite the rain in the first half of June, the bay was still low due to recent years of less-than-normal precipitation. Such conditions may not be appreciated by all of us, but many of the aquatic plants have taken advantage of life in the shallows. Here, during the sunlight of midday, the bay was filled with the large floating blossoms and circular leaves of white water-lilies. I have never seen more at this location before.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I reveled at a similar sight of the yellow pond-lilies. After a little searching, I was able to find a few yellows still among the whites, lending a two-toned blend to the shoreline plants of blue-flag iris and wild roses. With our abundant wetlands -- ponds, swamps and lakes -- in the Northland, these aquatic plants are very common and seen by many of us.
However, neither plant is well-named: white water-lilies and yellow pond-lilies are not lilies. They belong to a plant family called the water-lily family and, despite the name, they are not at all like the true lilies. Regardless of the names, they add much to our scene of summer. Like many of the other flowering plants this year, they bloomed earlier than normal. I recorded early yellow pond-lilies in the first part of May with white water-lilies nearly a month later. Both appeared about two weeks before expected.
With flowers about 3 to 5 inches in diameter and numerous petals, these whites out on the water's surface may be hard to not see. Yellow flowers are much smaller and nearly ball-shaped. Even the huge, plate-sized round leaves -- green above, purple below -- are quite a scene too. Not always appreciated by anglers and canoeists who pass through these routes, the water-lilies are home to myriad aquatic insects and spiders. These small animals make use of the big blossoms and leaves, both above and below. And we frequently see frogs here too. The plants were all in bloom when I was there in the direct sunlight of noon, but, by late in the day, the flowers appear to be gone. Closing in the late afternoon, they won't open until late morning. On early-morning visits, it may also look like white water-lilies are not even present. Both survive with strong rootstocks and, though the flowers get pollinated and form seeds, they will do well anyway. Unless drought conditions cause this bay to dry up, I expect to see these water beauties for several more weeks of this new summer.
Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books that are available now: "Butterflies of the North Woods," "Spiders of the North Woods" and "Fascinating Fungi of the North Woods." Contact him c/o email@example.com .