Water Closet for July 14, 2014
( It is white water lily time again. The following Water Closet piece was published in the Tri-Town Transcript on July 4, 2008. Visit Stearns Pond in Harold Parker State Forest to see a mile long watery field of these beauties or almost any shallow water body including beaver impoundments. Favorite spots in Middleton are Webber’s Pond on East Street and coves in the Ipswich River across from Bostik above the dam.
Check nearby ponds for Nymphaea odorada “white water lilies”. You can’t miss them floating in the shallows. There seem to be more this year.
Some are reminded of Japanese Obon festivals where white paper lanterns each on a tiny wooden float are launched at twilight bearing a candle. These represent visiting spirits being sent gently back. As they sail before the breeze, prayers are silently offered by kin and spectators. There is really little comparison. Lily blossoms open in the morning and close in early afternoon. Clusters of the finest white, often pinkish, petals supported by a few green sepals are moored by soft cables to large bottom stems called rhizomes, a favorite food of muskrats.
Join these aquatic rodents looking skyward as they munch. There, just a couple muskrat-lengths above are circular islands; lily leaves and flowers, each a third-muskrat in diameter. Flat leaves, maroon beneath, appear as anchored clouds. The green upper surfaces are pocked with microscopic openings called stomata. The leaves of most plants surrounded by air have these gas exchanging portals on their undersides. Let us leave the island analogy for a moment and think of these sun-facing surfaces as solar panels, which they truly are. The chloroplasts in their cells absorb light and convert it to electro-chemical energy. Carbon dioxide enters through the stomata and with water from surroundings and tissues below, reacts in the processes of photosynthesis to make sugars, which diffuse to stems and roots where they are used or converted to and stored as starch until the following spring.
Imagine thousands of creatures, scores of species, from otters to fish, from tiny crustaceans to insect larvae and even tinier protozoa, all in this shady dining hall. Pond lilies provide food, shade, protection, substrate for small creatures and perhaps even aesthetic delights as clouds above us do. Each leaf is a raft, smaller denizens clinging to the bottom.
Upon visiting such places reach or wade out and pluck a blossom leaving only a short piece of stem. Pop into a bowl of water so it floats. Bring home and observe your captive beauty’s daily openings and closings. Play the visiting insect, lean down and sniff. The smell is as lovely as the look.
If you like the idea of Obon think of your stolen lily as some departed soul on an early summer visit. See it off with thankful thoughts. Leave the more tangible parts to the muskrats.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||April||May||June||July|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||4.53||4.06||3.95||3.89|
|2013 – 14 Central Watershed Actual||2.88||2.77||2.03||4.1 as of 7/8**|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate(S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For July 8, 2014 Normal . . . 11 CFS Current Rate . . . 61 CFS
**Updated July precipitation data is from MST gage..*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru June. Normalsdata is from the National Climatic Data Center.