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Previous Knowledge. Nelumbo lutea (American Lotus, Lotus-lily, Water Chinquapin) is an aquatic plant of quiet, shallow waters, widespread in the east- ern half of North America from Florida, Louisiana, and Texas northward to southern Maine and Massachusetts west to southern Ontario, southern Michigan, Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota, Iowa, and eastern Nebraska (Crow & Hel- lquist 2000; USDA, NRCS 2014). Nelumbo lutea was documented on the distri- bution map in Voss and Reznicek (2012) only for Wayne and Monroe Counties, which are adjacent to the well-established and extensive populations in Ohio along the southern shore of Lake Erie from Erie, Sandusky, Ottawa, and Lucas Counties (personal observation), as well as a somewhat disjunct site in south- western Michigan in Kalamazoo County. According to information from the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (Slaughter, pers. comm.), numerous records from Monroe County are mostly from the Lake Erie marshes. Wayne County records document a population of N. lutea adjacent to Lake Erie, as well as from historic sites on the Huron and Rouge Rivers.

The single historical report for Kalamazoo County of a population from Sun- set Lake in the town of Vicksburg (Hanes and Hanes 1947) has had its native sta- tus questioned (Voss 1985). It had reputedly occurred in the marsh at Sunset Lake in Vicksburg since at least the middle of the 19th century, according to Voss (1985), based on Beal’s (1878), citation of a report from a Frank Tuthill of Kala- mazoo that the American Lotus must have been “introduced after the country was settled,” as the pond in which the plant was found was a mill pond. Beal also mentions a Mrs. Adams, who had lived nearby, who thought Nelumbo lutea had grown in the natural pond prior to the establishment of the mill in 1829 (Beal 1878). Beal later stated under his account of this species for all of Michigan, “Perhaps introduced by the Indians” (Beal & Wheeler 1892, Beal 1904). In his article updating the “Flora and Vegetation of Kalamazoo County, Michigan,” McKenna (2005, p. 226) stated: “To my knowledge, [the Vicksburg population was] last collected by the Haneses on 11 July 1934.” He also reported that a “short, typed report on the flora of the county written by C. R. Hanes (date of preparation unknown, but certainly post 1934) reads ‘The Lotus, which formerly grew at Vicksburg . . . .’” McKenna (2005) regarded it as extirpated and proba- bly not native.

Voss (1985) indicated that various attempts had been made in the 1800s to in- troduce new populations in the Detroit River, with none persisting. I once tried to establish a population of Nelumbo lutea in the old reservoir on the campus of the University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, with plants taken from a lake in Wisconsin. After I transplanted three tubers, the plants flowered

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nicely the following summer, thereafter producing only a few floating leaves for a few years, and then disappearing from the transplanted site. So, if the Vicks- burg population was sustained for nearly a century, does it not stand to reason that the occurrence might have been natural? Furthermore, Michigan Flora On- line (2011) notes that while Nelumbo lutea may have been regarded as perhaps introduced “. . . by Native Americans as a food-plant, . . . there is no documen- tation one way or the other. Some of our colonies, at least, are assumed to be nat- ural, at the northern edge of the range for the species.”

Discussion. The Michigan Natural Features Inventory (2007) lists Nelumbo lutea as a rare plant with Threatened state status and S2 (Imperiled) state rank, although it is considered globally Apparently Secure (G4). This documentation of two populations in Ottawa County by herbarium specimens reconfirms the presence of this rare plant in western Michigan, which was first collected by K. Karsten on August 25, 1942; the occurrence was unknown to Voss (1985) in his extensive work on his Michigan Flora and was still unknown to Voss and Reznicek (2012) at the time of publication of Field Manual of Michigan Flora.

The western Michigan population came to my attention as I was working in the Calvin College Herbarium (CALVIN) in January 2014 on a project to image all of the specimens in the collection. I ran across two sheets of a collection that was made from a population with the label data: “Grand River at Stearns Bayou, Ot- tawa Co., Coll. M. Karsten 7a & 7B, 7-25-’42” (Figure 1). Since there was no dot recorded for Ottawa County on the distribution map for this species in Voss and Reznicek (2012), I sent images of Professor Karsten’s collection to A. A. Reznicek so that the Michigan Flora Online (2011) website could be updated; Ottawa County has now been added to the list of counties and a dot added to the map.

In August 2014 I set out to relocate the 1942 Ottawa County population doc- umented by Professor Karsten. Using Google Earth I was able to locate a bridge crossing Stearns Bayou on Green Street, Robinson Township. A large population was hiding in plain sight adjacent to an old store/boat livery and launching site called Felix’s Landing, with a small sign, “Stearns Bayou,” on the side of the building. This large population, in full bloom (Figure 2), was adjacent to a large, dense cattail marsh; the opposite side of the waterway was dominated by Nymphaea odorata, but no Nelumbo lutea was observed on that side near the bridge. A second visit to the area in August 2015, by canoe, revealed that this population was extremely large, extending the whole length of the channel (both sides) connecting Stearns Bayou to the main flow of the Grand River. Specimens collected now provide present-day documentation of that population, which had been visited by Professor Karsten 72 years earlier, at Stearns Bayou.

Approximately one mile westward, I found a second population along the west shore of Millhouse Bayou, in Grand Haven Township. Here the population was small, consisting mostly of scattered plants at the Township picnic area wa- terfront and at an adjacent neighbor’s dock, growing in water ca. 1 m deep. Spec- imens were collected to document this additional locality.

In searching for additional information on Nelumbo lutea in Michigan, I was surprised to learn that the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (2007) (MNFI) also had internal reports on two other populations in the Grand River system in Ottawa County (Slaughter, pers. comm.): (1) a large population in Grand Haven

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FIGURE 1. Herbarium specimen of Nelumbo lutea collected by K. Karsten in 1942 from Stearns Bayou, Ottawa County, Michi- gan (CALVIN).

Township at the east end of Martinique Island, approximately 3 miles down- stream from my Grand Haven Township site; and (2) a large population at the mouth of the Stearns Bayou, about 0.5 mile from my Green Street Bridge site.

Furthermore, the MNFI website has posted a single site in each of Barry, Berrien, and Genesee Counties—all unmapped on Michigan Flora Online (2011). There is clearly a need for documentation of populations of rare plants by depositing voucher specimens in our major state herbaria, thereby assuring that there will be a permanent record. Information from internal records at MNFI (Slaughter, pers. comm.) for Genesee County indicates a healthy population on Fenton Lake in 2005; in southwest Michigan, the Barry County population at Al- gonquin Lake was surveyed in 2004; and a report for Boyle Lake, Berrien County, first reported in 1934, indicates that N. lutea was “Apparently observed in 1981 . . . with no other data provided.”

Diagnostic Characters: Nelumbo lutea is readily recognized, being a large aquatic plant producing large circular leaves with the petiole attached in the cen- ter of the blade (peltate), the leaves standing erect and emergent, and as floating leaves (especially in deeper water or earlier in the growing season). Populations are conspicuous in late summer (Figures 2 and 3), as the flowers are pale-yellow

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FIGURE 2. View of present-day population of Nelumbo lutea at Green Street Bridge, Stearns Bayou, Robinson Township, Ottawa Co., Michigan. Photo by Garrett Crow.

FIGURE 3. Nelumbo lutea population at mouth of Stearns Bayou. Photo by Garrett Crow.

to sulfur yellow, with flowering often peaking in mid-August; the petals and sta- mens are numerous, and the numerous carpels are separate and imbedded in a broad, flat-toped receptacle (Figure 4). Large populations can readily be spotted from a distance. The plants readily spread by rhizomes, often forming large pop- ulations that are near monocultures. Large tubers are produced in late summer, and were eaten by Native Americans. The fruits are round nutlets with a hard

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FIGURE 4. Flower of Nelumbo lutea. Photo by Garrett Crow.

FIGURE 5. Maturing fruiting receptacle (torus) of Nelumbo lutea with developing nutlets in cavities. Photo by Garrett Crow.

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outer wall, remaining in or shed from cavities in the mature woody receptacle (Figure 5).

Nelumbo lutea is the only species of the Nelumbonaceae native to North America and is closely related to the well known pink-or white-flowered N. nu- cifera (Sacred Lotus or Oriental Lotus) native to eastern Asia and northern Aus- tralia and commonly cultivated in water gardens. It occurs very sporadically as naturalized populations in the southeastern United States (Wiersema 1997). Nelumbo lutea and N. nucifera, the only two taxa in the Nelumbonaceae, are very closely related, and it has even been proposed that the two be regarded as a sin- gle species with two widely disjunct subspecies; the name for our taxon would then be N. nucifera subsp. lutea (Willd.) Borsch & Barthlott. But I am retaining the two species viewpoint, following the nomenclature of the taxonomic treat- ment of Flora of North America North of Mexico (Wiersema 1997), Field Man- ual of Michigan Flora (Voss and Reznicek 2012), and Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Northeastern North America (Crow and Hellquist 2002).

Specimen Citations. Michigan, Ottawa Co., Grand River at Stearns Bayou. July 25, 1942. M. Karsten 7a & 7B [CALVIN002319 & CALVIN002321]; Robinson Township, Stearns Bayou at Green Street Bridge, Felix’s Landing; backwater off Grand River; large population adjacent to boat launch on northeast side of bayou. August 6, 2014, Garrett E. Crow 10831, and 17 August 2015, Garrett E. Crow 10978 (CALVIN, MICH, MSC); Grand Haven Township, Mill- house Bayou at township picnic area on Bignell Road; backwater off of Grand River; small population with scattered plants in shallow areas near shore. August 6, 2014. Garrett E. Crow 10836 (CALVIN, MICH, MSC).


Special thanks are extended to Brad Slaughter for providing information from the Michigan Nat- ural Features Inventory on Nelumbo lutea, as well as for providing suggestions on improving the manuscript. Anonymous reviewers also provided constructive comments. Thanks are extended to David and Charylene Powers for providing the opportunity to examine the population by canoe, as well as to my field assistant, Charlyn Crow.


Beal, W. J. (1878). Nelumbium luteum in Michigan. Botanical Gazette 3: 13.

Beal, W. J. (1904). Michigan flora, fern and seed plants growing without cultivation. Annual Report of the Michigan Academy of Science. 5: 1–147. [reprinted in 1905 as Michigan flora: a list of the fern and seed plants growing without cultivation. The State Board of Agriculture, Agricultural College, Mich., Lansing, Michigan.]

Beal, W. J. and C. F. Wheeler. (1892). Michigan Flora. Robert Smith & Co., Lansing, Michigan.

Crow, G. E., and C. B. Hellquist. (2000). Aquatic and wetland plants of northeastern North America: Vol. 1. Pteridophytes, gymnosperms and angiosperms: Dicotyledons. (Corrected paperback edi- tion, 2006). University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.

Hanes, C. R., and F. N. Hanes. (1947). Flora of Kalamazoo County, Michigan: Vascular plants. Pri- vately published, Schoolcraft, Michigan. McKenna, D. D. (2005). Flora and vegetation of Kalamazoo County, Michigan. The Michigan Botanist 43: 137–359. MICHIGAN FLORA ONLINE. A. A. Reznicek, E. G. Voss, & B. S. Walters. (2011). University of Michigan. Available at (Accessed Oct 5, 2015).

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Michigan Natural Features Inventory. (2007). Rare species explorer. Available at (Accessed Dec 18, 2014)

USDA, NRCS. (2014). Nelumbo lutea. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greens- boro, North Carolina. Available at (Accessed December 18, 2014).

Voss, E. G. (1985). Michigan Flora. Part II. Dicots (Saururaceae–Cornaceae). Cranbrook Institute of Science Bulletin 59 and University of Michigan Herbarium, Ann Arbor.

Voss, E. G., and A. A. Reznicek. (2012). Field manual of Michigan flora. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

Wiersema, J. H. (1997). Nelumbonaceae. Pp. 64-65 in Flora of North America, Volume 3: Magno- liophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, editors. Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y.

——Garrett E. Crow Professor Emeritus, University of New Hampshire Visiting Scholar, Calvin College Visiting Research Botanist, Michigan State University Herbarium