Every third weekend in the spring and summer my local wildlife refuge holds a free canoe day. They bring the canoes and you bring the paddlers.
On an overcast Saturday this weekend, my friend Megan and I decided to give it a go. We packed the sunscreen, the bug spray, hats, our cameras, and some water and headed out to the boat ramp.
We were running a little late that morning but we drove up just in time to claim the next to the last canoe. The two volunteers helped us climb into the canoe and gave us a good push into the lake.
The level of the water in the lake was pretty low, exposing many of the bald cypress stumps that normally hide just below the top of the water. This made navigation a little challenging for us novice canoe paddlers.
We had to weave in and out and around the exposed stumps as well as keep an eye out for the top of those that were just barely hidden below the water line. For two women who have not done much canoeing together, it was a bit of an adventure.
After a few false starts and bumps with the canoe, we finally made it to some open water. A breeze blew across the lake, causing us to pause and just enjoy the view.
The American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) flowers were in full bloom. Everywhere you turned, you could see dots of white in the distance – glowing white lotus blossoms in bud or fully open.
When we moved the canoe a little closer, we were able to get within a few feet of one of the flowers. Up close, lotus flowers are simply stunning.
With large white rounded petals surrounding a bright yellow-orange center, these flowers practically glow. I even spotted some bees and hoverflies feeding on the flowers.
Megan held the canoe still for me while I took these photos. The water was so low in this spot, all she had to do was stick her paddle into the mud for stability. Megan is an amazing photographer, and of course, she took some photos too, so it was my turn to hold the canoe.
As we cautiously moved to the other side of the lake, we spotted some fragrant water lilies (Nymphaea odorata) blooming near a log. Although we weren’t able to get too close to them, I was able to take a few photos. I have a particular affection for water lilies.
After a few hours of paddling around the lake and in and around the stumps of the bald cypress trees, we called it a day. We navigated back to the boat ramp and paddled to pick up speed so that our canoe would run onto the ground.
The same two volunteers helped us get out of the canoe, asked us about our trip, and then moved on to help the next visitors into the canoe.
Mornings like this and time spent outdoors with friends enjoying the beauty of nature are what give me strength, keep me sane, and make me grateful.
Get outdoors my friends!
Bringing these Water Flowers to Your Garden
While both American lotus and fragrant water lily produce beautiful flowers, they can be quite invasive in small ponds. Upon doing a little research, I did find that both of these beauties could be grown in containers in the right conditions. This seems like a perfect way to incorporate them into your garden for those of you with a strong sense of adventure and a lot of space.
American lotus requires quite a large container – one that can hold 15-25 gallons of water. The container should be shallow (about 3 or 4 feet deep), pretty wide, and with curved edges. You will need to have silt or clay loam in the bottom and add some organic materials such as manure or decomposed mulch. Find the full instructions here: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag380
Fragrant Water Lily
Fragrant water lilies are a common addition to small fishponds in backyard gardens, but you can even grow them in containers as small as five gallons. Again, this plant will need a good substrate to grow in, so you will need to add garden soil or potting mix to your container. Water lilies like a good 18 inches of water, so pick a deep enough container to accommodate this. Find the full instructions for growing these in a container here: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fp434