Local Lifestyle

What’s that blooming in the C&O Canal?

Walkers and bikers along the C&O Canal in Hancock are being treated to a colorful show of blooms right now that stretches widely. The annual appearance of pink blooms on the water lilies captures the attention of many.

American white water-lily (Nymphaea odorata) is an aquatic flowering plant native to Central and North America. It’s also known by the name of Fragrant White Water-lily, Sweet-scented White Water-lily and Beaver Root.

The water lily, now blooming widely in the C&O Canal section in Hancock, is a floating aquatic plant.

The leaves are bright green with very long stems that are rhizomes buried in mud or muck. Those roots are often eaten by muskrats, commonly found in canals.

Some water lilies will only open in the early morning and close at midday. There are white and pink varieties, with the waxy looking flower floating among the leaves.

According to plant experts, there are often more than 25 petals on a water lily flower and more than 70 stamens.

It is a common food for many species of birds and turtles. The shade that American white water-lily creates and casts over the water where it grows helps stifle algae growth, a side effect that is beneficial to most of the aquatic wildlife around it.

The water lily is a perennial plant that comes back each year. It blooms from March through October, and is common throughout the United States and Canada. The lily multiples by rhizome division all by itself.

After flowering, the plant produces a globe-spaced fruit under the water that contains many seeds.