Pond lilies, both pickerel weed and arrowhead, dominate my pond these June days. Water plants play a special role in the life of a small pond. Not only are various blossoms beautiful to see, but the roots and leaves provide great cover for wildlife, especially fish, aquatic insects, snakes, turtles, frogs, crayfish, salamanders and other creatures. Both beavers and muskrats eat the rhizomes (roots), and the beavers also like the leaves. Waterfowl such as wood ducks, mallards and Canada geese eat the seeds of the yellow pond lily.
The leaves and stems also serve as great places for salamanders and aquatic insects to attach egg masses. The leaves provide resting places for land insects such as dragonflies and bees. All in all, the handsome yellow pond lilies are a welcome addition to a pond. Actually, yellow pond lily rhizomes can be eaten, and the seeds of this lily can be popped like popcorn.
Duck–potato is another water plant to be welcomed to your pond. The large arrowhead-shaped leaves are easy to recognize, and the large white flowers are whorled in threes. It is quite easy to recognize this plant. The tubers are edible and can be roasted or broiled. In China, arrowhead long has been used as a starchy vegetable. Arrowhead is an aquatic herb that belongs to a primitive family. This plant is a native of southern Canada and most of the contiguous United States, as well as Central America. When other countries have introduced it into a new environment, though, it often is considered an invasive species and a pest.
Although it is called duck-potato, it is rarely eaten by ducks, for the tubers are usually buried too deep for them. Ducks prefer the seeds. The whole plant, though, including the tubers, is eaten by beavers, North American porcupines and muskrats.
If you want to try the tubers, they can be cooked for 15-20 minutes and used as you would a potato. They also can be eaten raw. These tubers have long been a favorite food for people living in the Americas. Sometimes the tubers are sliced and dried to prepare flour.
Often, as you walk the beach or sit near the ocean anywhere on this island, you get to see a seal or two. Most of us know where to go to see these curious mammals pull out of the water and rest during the day. They are always fun to watch.
When seals haul out and rest on a ledge in loosely organized groups of all sizes and sexes, it is not a particularly social time, for adults do not like to touch each other. They always leave what they consider the proper distance between themselves. Of course, the young pups interact as young mammals do, but as they mature, they become less social.
Seals will haul out either in the daytime or nighttime, and they tend to return to favorites locations. Fighting is rare except when males are competing for females.
The gestation period is a long one, lasting from 9-11 months. There is actually a delayed implantation in the female so the mother recovers from her last pregnancy and the pups are born when conditions are favorable, anytime from February to July. Friends of mine saw newborns on an outer island in February in the midst of a nasty snowstorm. The young may be born on land or in the water. Unlike mothers who fast while nursing, harbor seal mothers leave the pups at times to feed and then come back to nurse. Pups are well developed at birth, with their eyes open, and they can swim right away and follow the mother. Pups will sometimes ride on the mother’s back, nip at her flippers or chase her through the water. Seal mothers are affectionate mothers, but once the pups are weaned, they seem to have no more interest in them. The young do not wander far from the adults.
We have two seals commonly seen in our local waters. They are the harbor seal, the smaller one with a dog-like face, and the much larger horse or gray seal, with a big horsey head. Both are curious animals and may be watching you as well.
Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.