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Nelumbo lutea (American lotus)
Muller, Thomas L.

Nelumbo lutea

Nelumbo lutea Willd.

American Lotus, Yellow Water Lotus, Yellow Lotus

Nymphaeaceae (Water-Lily Family)

Synonym(s): Nelumbium luteum, Nelumbo pentapetala


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

An aquatic plant with fragrant, pale yellow flowers and bowl-shaped leaves borne on stalks above the water.

This member of the Water Lily group is recognized by large, umbrella-like leaves and the inverted, cone-like structure in the middle of the flowers. It covers extensive areas along the Mississippi River from Ontario, Iowa, and Wisconsin southward.


From the Image Gallery

47 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 6 feet tall. Leaves up to about 2 feet across.
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NE , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , SC , TN , TX , VA , WI
Canada: ON
Native Distribution: Southern Ontario, Iowa, and Minnesota to southern New England and New York; south to Florida, Cuba, Jamaica, and Hispaniola; west to Texas; south through Mexico to Honduras.
Native Habitat: Still water

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Aquatic: yes
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Any pond bottom or very large submerged pot.
Conditions Comments: Its saucer-shaped leaves are more than a foot in diameter and often rise out of the water. The lotus flowers are yellowish white with rich gold centers. They open in the morning and close by late afternoon and reopen the following day. Prepare to give aqautic plant lots of space to spread and reproduce.


Use Food: The large tuberous roots, the size of a human arm were baked like sweet potatoes, the leaves were eaten like spinach and the seeds were prepared to be eaten like nuts or ground into flour.
The pods are quite striking and often used in flower arrangements. (Lamb/Rhynard)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Deer Resistant: Moderate


Propagation Material: Root Division

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Herbarium Specimen(s)

LBJWC 1121 Collected 07 August 2009 in Brazoria County by Minnette Marr

1 specimen(s) available in the Digital Herbarium

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-1286 Collected 2009-08-07 in Brazoria County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

1 collection(s) available in the Wildflower Center Seed Bank


Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 1262 - Plants of Carolinian Canada (1994) Lamb, Larry and Gail Rhynard
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Nelumbo lutea in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Nelumbo lutea in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Nelumbo lutea


Record Modified: 2023-02-20
Research By: NPC

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