Friday, May 11, 2012

Water Poppy

Ottelia ovalifolia 
As you can see, these plants really have nothing to do with poppies, which have four petals. These three-petalled flowers are more closely (though not very closely) related to lilies.

 It’s rather late in the season for water poppies, but I found these a few weeks ago, in a sheltered, sunny waterhole in Reinke Scrub near Proston.

Also not related to “ordinary” water lilies (Nymphaea species), these are smaller (6cm) flowers which last only a day, but are plentifully produced throughout the warm season.

 The plants need to anchor themselves in the mud at the bottom of the pond (or could to be established in a pot). They prefer shallow water, but can cope with depths of up to 60cm. A sunny situation is essential for flowering.
They grow easily from seed, but the seedlings will surprise you. Juvenile, underwater leaves are strap-shaped, so you might think that you are looking at a different plant!
Water popiesand revert to the underwater straps of their childhood.
In colder situations they are likely to behave as annuals. They are also less ornamental. All of them have a tendency to produce some underwater buds which never open, but have the curious ability (known as cleistogamy) to produce seed without being needing to be fertilised by insects. In colder climates, the plants produce more of these cleistogamous flowers, and fewer, if any, chasmogamous ones. (This lovely word just means the ordinary kind of flower with petals!) You might be excused for thinking that they are not flowering at all.
They like their water to be nitrogen-rich, and are a bit touchy about pH, preferring it to be under 6.2, (so might not thrive on our black soil which is more alkaline).


Tom said...

Hi Trish,

another common name applying to different plants - I have used swamp lily for Crinum pedunculatum for many years rather than this plant! Ottelia looks like a true water plant whereas Crinum pedunculatum seems to tolerate more drier conditions. Sadly my specimens of crinum here get decimated, and indeed, I noticed the other day have died off after being hit by some insect pest(?Spodoptera picta moth)

Patricia Gardner said...

You're right, Tom. I'd forgotten Crinum pedunculatum was also called swamp lily. It's not native up here, though we Toowoomba people see it down on the muddy verges of the Bremer River when we drive to Brisbane.
I've decided to change the name of my article on the strength of your comment. Water poppy is a bit of a minority name for Ottelia, and is shared with a similar American plant, but I think it is a better name, really - even though real poppies have four petals and are quite unrelated.
I have Crinum pedunculatum in my garden, and as you say, it does tolerate quite a bit of dry. I think it's more prosperous if its roots are kept damp, though. I have created a bit of a swamp garden for mine, with underground plastic. I wonder if yours would be more pest resistant if kept damper?

Tom said...

Hi Trish - what an excellent idea re creating a local damp area with some plastic. I like swamp lilies so I will try that here. Water poppy is a better common name and "fits" the plant well.

Anonymous said...

Hello Trish

This one grows in the creek at our place. It survives some very fast flowing water at times.


Patricia Gardner said...

Hi Mick.
You're right. It grows in the overflow at Lake Broadwater, too, so does get exposed to fast-flowing water. The roots must get a good grip in the mud. For more of the time, the water (when there is any) in the overflow is still, so I think that is probably its preferred habitat. I notice that at Girraween it grows in the creek, but tends to be tucked into the quiet places behind rocks.