Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bullhead Lily

Bullhead Lilies dapple the surface of a blackwater marsh, Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Ohio is truly a crossroads state. Botanical influences collide here: prairies from the west, Appalachian flora from the east, southern migrants via the mighty Ohio River, and boreal plants from the north. There are something along the lines of 600+ state-listed rare plants - species decreed endangered, threatened, or potentially threatened. Many of them are edge of range plants, rare in the Buckeye State, but common, even abundant elsewhere.

That's the case with Bullhead Lily, or for you plants geeks, Nuphar lutea ssp. variegatum. There is only a spot or three in our western Lake Erie marshes where it is known to grow. But not too far into Michigan, I began seeing it everywhere.

It may remind you of a similar plant, one that you'll see far more if you hail from south of the Great Lakes. Spatterdock, Nuphar lutea ssp. advena, is often abundant in quiet ponds, lakes, marshes, and even sluggish river backwaters. That species has very different leaves, though - they are held erect and jutting from the water's surface, whereas the star of this blog has floating leaves.

I love the unusual ball-like flowers of Bullhead Lilies. The photo above shows one at peak bloom; that's about as good as it gets, but they have their semi-ugly charms.

Any plant that creates this much biomass within aquatic habitats is almost surely a keystone species, and the lily certainly is. Fish hide among its stems, especially fry in need of cover lto prevent the bigger fish from making sushi of them.

Frogs sit atop the leaves, snapping at insects. Dragonflies use the plants as landing pads, darting out to make mincemeat of lesser flying beasts. Some of them lay their eggs on the plants, and a few dragons even slice open the tissues and inject their eggs inside.

Other animals, such as Muskrats, will even eat the lilies.

But the aesthetic attributes cannot be ignored. A colony of dark green heart-shaped leaves cloaking the surface of cool marshy waters, with bizarre lemon orbs on sticks thrust out here and there, is a pleasing sight indeed. Especially if you are from the Deep South, where such a plant is a great rarity.



Donice in Columbus said...

Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog; I've been reading it for a while now. I am about to leave for my 30th year vacationing in northern MI, so I recognize lots of your recent photos and am looking forward to some hiking and observing. Thanks for such an engaging, helpful blog.

AMIT said...

Really enjoyed reading your blog about birds.

Alternative energy

AMIT said...

Really enjoyed reading your blog about birds.

Alternative energy