September 2, 2014

What's Blooming Now

Spatterdock-also known as cow lily-is a yellow-flowered water lily native to the backwaters, swamps and ponds of the Southeast. In Southwest Florida, it blooms throughout the year. The leaves, which can be up to 12 inches in diameter, vary greatly in shape, from rounded and heart-shaped to long and spear-shaped. Sometimes spatterdock float on the surface; other times they stand above it on slender stalks. Their flowers are easy to recognize-one-inch-diameter, rounded yellow buds that never open in the broad display of color we expect of other water lilies. A spatterdock flower in full bloom resembles a bud just beginning to open.

Spatterdock grows in shallow water and provides shelter for fishes and invertebrates. But when high levels of fertilizer from lawns and agricultural fields get into the water, they can become a nuisance, slowing flow in canals, increasing siltation, and sometimes growing in such dense aggregations that other plants are excluded. Spatterdock seeds were eaten by Native Americans; today their flat-topped seedheads are often used in dried flower arrangements.

-Jerome A. Jackson, Florida Gulf Coast University

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