If you've ever encountered a body of water populated with lily pads, you've likely been amazed at how these unusual aquatic plants seem to float on top of the water. Lily pads are just one part of a larger pond plant that thrives in shallow lakes and ponds. Although these plants appear to be floating, there is actually much more going on below the surface of the water, and you may even be surprised by some of the most common facts about lily pads.
Part of the Water Lily Plant
Commonly referred to as lily pads, these aquatic wonders are actually leaves of the water lily plant, also referred to as the lotus flower. Characteristically round, flat and waxy, a lily pad is designed to repel moisture from its surface. The water lily flower blooms atop the pad and the hollow stem of this unusual leaf transports air down through the plant stem to the plant's roots. Though lily pads appear as if they are simply floating atop the water, the stem that they are attached to may extend many feet down to the bottom of a pond or lake, where it takes root.
Water lilies reproduce both by way of seeds and by way of their tenacious roots, or rhizomes. Though this plant spreads relatively slowly, it can eventually dominate entire shorelines. Water lilies, and therefore lily pads, can take over an area of water as much as 6 feet deep. A single rhizome can reproduce and grow to cover an area of 15 feet in diameter in as little as 15 years.
Beneficial to Pond Habitat
Water lilies grow in the calm shoreline waters of lakes and most notably ponds. In moderate quantities, these plants greatly benefit their habitats by providing shelter for fish and shade to keep the water cool. They also produce natural oxygen for fish to breathe and beneficial bacteria to thrive.
Different Color Underneath
These flat, round leaves have a green, waxy, water-repellent upper side, but in some cases, the underside may be purple. These purple pigments help to concentrate sunlight and maximize the process of photosynthesis in water lilies that possess this unique feature.
American Indians commonly used different parts of the water lily plant to treat a variety of ailments. They mashed the roots and created a poultice for swelling. It was also used for problems of the womb for women, for digestive issues and as a mouth rinse. The leaves, or lily pads, were often used to make cooling compresses.