Varieties of Yellow Pond-lilies can be found across the US.

Why is it possible to drown a common house plant and yet there are plants that grow gleefully in water?

The common Yellow Pond-lily has a beautiful bloom and large, heart-shaped floating leaves (nearly 18-inches in length). The bloom is nearly 4-inches and held just above the water surface in spring through early fall.

Survival

The Yellow Pond-lily has developed a specialized type of underwater tissue that helps it survive. This tissue, called aerenchyma, facilitates the underwater movement of large amounts of oxygen and other gasses. This tissue holds eight times the amount of oxygen, compared to a house plant.

Respiration in water lily-type plants is anaerobic (meaning the process occurs without oxygen). Many ponds and slow-moving waters where it grows are often low oxygen. This respiration process creates ethanol (a type of alcohol) within the plant’s cells.

This alcohol is poisonous to the plant. To get rid of the alcohol quickly, the plant evaporates it up through the aerenchyma cells and bloom. The pretty yellow blooms smell strongly of alcohol which attract pollinating flies, and create a small bottle-shaped tuber to store sugars in (explains the common European name of ‘Bandy-bottle’).

Medicine

Yellow Pond lilies have been used in traditional medicines remedies. There are warnings related to tannins and selecting materials from a clean water source (see the Natural Medicinal Herbs website at http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/n/nuphar-lutea=yellow-water-lily.php). Note: Not all varieties or parts of the Yellow Pond-lily are edible or appropriate for use.

The Edible Wild Food website (http://www.ediblewildfood.com/yellow-water-lily.aspx) reports that the Yellow Pond-lily was a common food source for many Native people. Natives leached the rootstocks collected in the spring and winter of tannins and boiled or roasted for flour. Seeds were often cooked like popcorn. Flowers can make a refreshing drink.

The National Park Service reports Yellow-Pond lily species ‘Nuphar polysepalum’ growing in the Denali National Park/Preserve lowlands in Alaska. When cooked, this variety is also tasty (see Denali National Park, Alaska, https://www.nps.gov/dena/learn/nature/pondlily.htm).

Where to find it

Yellow Pond Lilies grow in a wide variety of aquatic habitats as far south as Baja California, and north into Alaska. Habitat ranges from hot desert ponds to ponds frozen more than half of the year!

Want it?

Propagate Yellow Pond Lilies through seed or division and will grows in containers!

For more information, see Plants for a Future at https://pfaf.org/user/Default.aspx. Image is Royalty free from free-images.com.

The Pacific Coast area has only one native azalea which is famous not only for its fragrance and beauty, but also as being very difficult to grow.

Unlike our native rhododendron R. macrophyllum, R. occidentale is considered to be an azalea or azaleadendron. Both plants have a tendency to grow in thickets and become fairly tall. Unlike R. macrophyllum, R. occidentale is a deciduous azaleadendron and drops all of its leaves in the winter.

Colorful and fragrant blooms

The fantastic, often fragrant blooms, appear when the leaves emerge. Imagine 6-12 five multicolored florets clustered into trusses measuring up to 5-6 inches wide covering a large shrub.

These florets typically flaunt white, orange, yellow, pink or red, with flares, stripes, blotches, and frilly lobes that are deliciously fragrant.

Habitat

The flower and plant diversity reach a peak in the southern Oregon/northern California region spawning creating several unusual, recognized natural selections. This plant is also unusual because it will grow in serpentine soils (which are more base in pH). They are often used for southern coast restoration projects.

R. occidentale was used to develop fragrance and diversity in many other deciduous hybrid azaleas (such as Exbury hybrids). To see or smell a local example on campus check the southwest corner of Nash; southeast of Gilkey Hall at intersection of sidewalks in late April and May.

Where to look

Look for plants growing on the hillsides along Highway 101 from Newport to southern California. Fragrance will also give their locations away.

While it easily grows here, it will not on the East Coast. No one quite understands why it will not grow well there, especially since the bulk of native azealeas grow there.

Natural Cluster

It is possible to view a major natural cluster at the Azalea State Reserve just south of the Oregon-California border (see https://www.stateparks.com/azalea_state_reserve_in_california.html) near to Highway 101. There are several campgrounds, parks, reserves, etc. nearby.

Brookings, just north of this area in Oregon, features an annual Azalea festival. Check out occidentale at the Brookings City Park May 22-25, 2020. The festival includes many activities such as art shows, plant sales, seafood feeds, cruise ins, breweries, much and more! (see http://azaleafestivalbrookings.com/ )

For more information see OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Horticulture, Landscaping Plants at https://landscapeplants.oregonstate.edu/plants/rhododendron-occidentale and the Azalea Society of America at https://www.azaleas.org/view-azalea/?id=9318. Photo of R. occidentale by Don Hyatt, http://donaldhyatt.com/ used with permission.

I remember the first time I saw a carnivorous California Pitcher Plant (at the Darlingtonia Wayside near Florence). The grove of odd-shaped plants looked like something from outer space.

Darlingtonia californica (Oregon State Parks)

Looking at this tall (up to about 40-inches), upright, tube-shaped plant, one might think it was alien. Researcher Dr. Dawn Cardace has been investigating ancient subduction areas of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. She is looking for potential applications for life on other planets (see https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/beauty/serpentines/conservation/microbes.shtml). 

A link to the unknown is easy to imagine when a bug flies in and never comes out.

Plants that grow in bogs have adapted different survival strategies and the California Pitcher Plant (Darlingtonia Californica) is no exception. For starters, the plant is fairly rare and grows in wetland areas where the pH is around 8 (most of our Pacific Northwest soils are on the acid side closer to 4-5). This pH level is common around serpentine soils.

The seeps of cold, running water helps moderate the plant’s root temperature. The roots are very sensitive to temperature changes, more so than the leaves.

Even so, it is the roots that give the plant the ability to quickly resprout even after a major fire. This ability has not gone unnoticed or researched. For more information see “Vegetation Recovery in the Biscuit Fire, Siskiyou National Forest, Oregon” at https://www.frames.gov/catalog/41316. The 2002 Biscuit Fire burned nearly 500,000 acres and is considered to be the largest fire in Oregon in the past century.

Trapped Inside

Most North American pitcher plants have slippery walls and downward-pointing hairs in their tubular leaves that help prevent prey from escaping. The Darlingtonia californica has an ingenious tiny, hidden exit and multiple translucent false exits making it even better at capturing and retaining its prey. The cells inside the tube can absorb nutrients like roots do which helps supplement the plant’s nitrogen requirements.

Foreground is a wild orchid (Cypripedium californicum) with grove of Darlingtonia in background (royalty free image Unsplash Moore)

But there is more to this story. A few fun facts about carnivorous plants:
–They grow predominantly in wetlands on every continent except for Antarctica.
–The U.S. has the largest variety of the over 700 species.
–Many wild carnivorous plants have gone extinct since the arrivals of Europeans. It is estimated that only five percent of the wild carnivorous plants remain.
–Charles Darwin, one of the first carnivorous plant enthusiasts, spent 20 years researching and writing his book “Insectivorous Plants.”

See to believe

There are several locations where you can see the California Pitcher Plant including the:
Darlingtonia Preserve located just off Highway 101, north of Florence, Oregon. This 18-acre preserve/State Park is centered on a peat bog. It is the only Oregon State Park dedicated to the protection of a single plant species (https://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=81)
Darlingtonia Trail, Smith River National Recreation Area (north and east of Crescent City near the Oregon/California border) see https://www.pickatrail.com/trails/national-recreation-areas/smith-river/darlingtonia-trail.html
Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Area, Wild and Scenic Illinois River Corridor managed by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and the Medford District Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Eight Dollar Mountain is one of the most significant botanical sites in Oregon. Many large Darlingtonia swamps exist at the base of the conical-shaped mountain. See https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/regions/Pacific_Northwest/EightDollar/index.shtml