Like Loon Lake here, Rocky Mountain pond-lilies virtually cover the shallow portions of many lakes in the Falls River area.
Indian Lake straddles the border of Idaho and Wyoming near Squirrel Meadows and the southern boundary of Yellowstone Park. It is an average-sized lake, about 220 acres, and Idaho claims only the far western corner.
Spot Indian Lake from the air or from Google Earth though, and you will only see a “lake” of about 12 acres, or 5 percent of the total surface area. The rest of the lake is hidden beneath the large spreading leaves of the Rocky Mountain pond-lily and looks more like a meadow than a lake. From a short distance, the pond-lily coverage appears so dense it wouldn’t take much alcohol consumption to convince someone that they could walk across the floating leaves.
On nearby Loon Lake, my wife and I launched our canoe to take a closer look at these fascinating native plants. We paddled through a thick blanket of pond-lily covering the entire east half of the lake. The huge, thick and leathery arrowhead-shaped leaves, some the size of turkey platters, parted before us and scraped against the sides of the canoe. Their thick stalks, up to four feet long and connected to a rhizomatous root anchored in the lake bottom, tugged against our paddles.
We found a few flowers and took a closer look. We realized that the bright yellow “petals” of these large globe-shaped flowers are actually the sepals. The petals are numerous but thick and small, resembling anthers and stamens more than petals. That is quite different from their relative, the water-lily, which has a fragrant flower with numerous showy pink-white petals.
The fruit was as interesting as the flower itself. It is shaped like an urn, constricted at the top with a fat base, hard and heavy and nearly three inches long. This capsule harbors the seeds which will float away when the capsule ruptures, providing food for visiting ducks.
The most interesting thing about the seeds is that Native Americans made significant use of them. They were ground to make flour and roasted them to make a sort of popcorn.
Besides seeds for food, Rocky Mountain pond-lily provides great cover for wildlife. We watched ducks and a loon swim into the dense leaves and completely disappear. Fish also find the leaves welcome cover from overhead predators like osprey.
Muskrats make extensive use of the pond-lily. They eat the tubers and store them in great piles. In lean times, Native Americans ate the tubers as a starchy addition to their diet and would raid the muskrat caches for the tubers they held.
We paddled across the deeper open water of Loon Lake toward lilies on the far side. It was easy to see why the water was not festooned with lilies here. Pond-lilies can only grow in water less than four feet deep.
Look for pond-lilies in the shallow edges of lakes and ponds in Island Park, Falls River area and Grand Teton Park. They can put on quite a show when blooms are heavy. Just don’t mistake a pond for a meadow.
Wildlife License Plates
Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.
No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.
Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program. Go figure.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), The Best of Nature is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (425 Capital)
Perfect Light Photo Supply
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho