American lotus is a perennial plant that is often confused with water lilies. Leaves are simple, round, bluish-green in color, up to 2 feet in diameter, attached to the stem in center (no slit like water lilies). Leaves are flat if floating or conical if emergent and can stand above the water’s surface as high as 3 1/2 feet on the rigid stem. Flowers are large (to 10 inches across) yellowish-white to yellow with more than 20 petals. The center of the flower, the seed structure, is cone-shaped (or like an inverted shower-head) and has openings in which the seeds develop. Lotus can form large colonies and spreads by seeds and large fleshy rhizomes.
Submerged portions of all aquatic plants provide habitats for many micro and macro invertebrates. These invertebrates in turn are used as food by fish and other wildlife species (e.g. amphibians, reptiles, ducks, etc.). After aquatic plants die, their decomposition by bacteria and fungi provides food (called “detritus”) for many aquatic invertebrates. The large acorn like seeds of lotus are utilized by some ducks and other wildlife. Beavers and muskrats will consume the rhizomes.