By Jim Poling Sr.
The pleasures of summer are numerous but one of the best is passing a pond or lake edge where water lilies have made their home.
These plantswith their large flat floating leaves are in bloom. Their dazzlingwhite star-shaped flowers with golden centres provide a snowy coolnesson summer days that have become far too hot.
It’s not just the beauty of the water lily blooms that catches our attention. There is noshortage of blooms at this time of year. Roadside daisies thistlemilkweed and many others have blooms that brighten the summer landscape.
Water lilies are extra special because they offer a lesson about living. It’s an important lesson in these times of pandemic and the changes it isbringing to our lives.
These plants have developed what scientistscall evolved adaptations; special characteristics or traits that allowthem to live in abnormal environments.
Their broad floating leavesand the stems that support them have wide air spaces to hold the carbon dioxide and oxygen needed to make the plant’s food throughphotosynthesis. Those unusually large air spaces provide buoyancy thatholds the flowers and leaf pads on top of the water where they cancollect sunlight and allow pollination by insects and wind.
The lily pads are like solar panels that capture the sunlight needed to provide energy to the plant.
The flowers open into a bowl shape when touched by the sun and close whenit begins to disappear. The petals fold over themselves when they close making them watertight another neat adaptation.
These adaptations evolved over centuries have allowed the water lily to live productive lives in an unusual environment.
Water lilies are not just pretty. They can be useful to humans and some other animals.
Parts of the water lily are edible. Their raw leaves can be chopped and added to soups. The flower buds can be cooked or pickled. Seeds from theflowers contain protein and oil and can be ground into flour.
Various societies have found medicinal uses for water lilies. The plantscontain gallic and tannic acids often used in the pharmaceuticalindustries. Parts of the water lily have been used in poulticeseyewashes gargles and for a variety of minor ailments such as upsetstomach.
Moose are regular users of water lilies and other aquaticplants and can be seen at this time of year standing in ponds slurpingwater lily pads. They are an important part of a moose diet because they have sodium content higher than woody vegetation and moose requiresodium.
Moose will dive to get at parts of plants growing beneath the water surface. Their large nostrils act as valves that keep water outwhen they go underwater. Moose are believed to be able to dive as deepas six metres.
The lesson of the water lily is that to have aproductive life that helps others you need to be able to adapt tochanging conditions.
We can’t quickly change the physical aspects of our bodies. That’s an evolutionary process that takes centuries.
We can however change our thinking and our ways to adapt to a worldbeing altered by a changing climate increased population densities andmore new diseases.