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Aquatic Plant Spotlight: American Lotus

By Will Moseley
Wildlife and Fisheries Consultant

Posted May 1, 2019

American lotus Nelumbo lutea is a native perennial aquatic plant that grows along the shores of our water bodies. It is often incorrectly called “lily pad.” Lotus has a large round leaf that can be more than 2 feet in width and has no natural slit, a feature which is present in water lily leaves. The lotus bloom is a showy, yellow-white flower that grows above the water. Lotus is used as an ornamental plant in aquatic situations because it is very pretty, but it can become invasive and problematic. It has the ability to dominate in water less than about 7 feet deep, which allows it to outcompete more beneficial vegetation.

exampleDifference between a lotus and water lily leaf. Lotus is below and water lily is on the left.

Lotus tubers are eaten by beavers and muskrats and were once a popular food of Native Americans. The seeds have been known to be eaten by waterfowl but are not considered an important waterfowl food. Lotus can provide some habitat for invertebrates that are food for waterfowl and fish. If lotus becomes too abundant, it can be controlled with herbicides such as 2,4-D, glyphosate and triclopyr. It can be difficult to eliminate because the seeds can survive in the mud for many years, and cutting the plant is only temporarily effective.

Field Guide

To learn more about aquatic plant management, visit the Noble Research Institute’s Plant Image Gallery (www.noble.org/plantimagegallery) or purchase our field guide at www.noble.org/store.

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