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This perennial aquatic plant is native to North America, even in the colder regions of Canada's north and in Alaska. Yellow water lily is in the Nymphaeaceae (Water Lily) family. It prefers partly shaded locations in the water in which the soil conditions are (usually) loamy, sandy and even some clay. Some of its constituents include gallic acid (antioxidant), starch, tannins, and phytic acid (antioxidant). This common aquatic plant has a number of subspecies through the North American continent and other countries. This plant is also known as brandy-bottle or cow lily.
The single, yellow, fleshy flower, with its prominent, lobed stigma is the best known feature. If you gather the rhizomes, they have a very distinct prehistoric look to them and feel spongy. This rhizome can get to 15cm wide and 5 metres long. The leaves and flowers are visible as they float on the water surface.
This striking yellow flower occurs anywhere from March to October depending on geographical location. The flowers are waxy, cup-shaped and typically measure 4 to 6 cm (1.5 to 2.5”) across. The 4 to 6 yellowish-green sepals are much longer than the petals. The flower has 15 to 20 yellow petals, numerous stamens, and the stigma is shield-like and concave.
The leaves of this rhizomatous aquatic perennial are quite variable and may be wide or rather narrow and submersed or floating. They often measure 10 to 45cm long. The blade of the floating leaves are broadly elliptic to oval, light green, the stalk is angled. Submerged leaves are roundish and wrinkled. The leaf veins of yellow water-lily end at the blade margin and do not form a net-like pattern like those of white water-lily species.
The yellow water lily grows to varying heights anywhere from 30 cm to 1 metre (1' to 3').
This plant according to the USDA is found throughout Canada an the U.S. It typically is found in deep, slow moving or still water in waters that can be as deep as 3 metres (9'). They can occur in ponds, lakes, bayous, bogs, streams and springs.
This was a common food source for many Native people. They would gather the thick rootstocks in winter and spring, boil or roast them for several hours, then peeled them to expose their sweet contents. Rootstocks were also sliced, dried and ground into meal or flour. The roots contain a relatively high level of tannins and it is best to try to leach the tannins before eating. (As a result of the bitterness, many people refer to the roots of this plant as survival food only.) Apparently the seeds when heated increase in size like poor-quality popcorn, making a crunchy snack. In small quantities, the roots, seeds and (cooked) leaves are considered edible by several sources. If you harvest this aquatic plant it is very important to be sure that the water source in which they grow is not contaminated in any way.
Yellow Pond Lily.
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