Lotus Flowers and Other Delights

It is summer in D.C. and the lotus flowers are out at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

©Angela N.

Every year starting in mid-July, the Gardens host the Lotus and Water Lily Festival. This year, due to the continuing pandemic, there are a variety of virtual events but you can also check out the flowers in person. In fact, the park is offering extended hours each Friday through August 6th to give more people an opportunity to visit.

Most of lotus flowers in the park are Asian lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), plants that are native to much of southeast Asia. The flower is a sacred symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Asian lotus. Photo credits clockwise from top left: ©Victoria Pickering, ©Angela N., ©Rob Klug, ©Angela N.

The lotus seed pod. ©Rob Klug

There is also one pond featuring the white blossomed American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) in the southwest corner of the gardens.

American lotus. ©Rob Klug

But don’t let the lotus flowers distract you from the equally dazzling water lilies, which come in a variety of colors.

Photo credits: ©Miki Jourdan (left); ©Victoria Pickering (right; 2 photos)

Lily pad. ©Miki Jourdan

Per The Washington Post, in 1879, a Civil War veteran named Walter Shaw purchased the land that now houses the park, and used a former ice pond to grow water lilies. Later, he expanded the number of ponds. The federal government acquired the land in 1938 and a year later, it became part of the National Park Service.

Make Way for Insects

The water lillies and lotus flowers attract bees and other pollinators.

Butterflies also flit across the blooms.

And the dragonflies jump from lotus to lily in search of smaller insects to eat. Many are blue dashers.

©Angela N.

But you’ll also see black, purple, red and orange varieties.

Photo credits clockwise from top left: ©Rob Klug (2 photos); ©Miki Jourdan (3 photos)

Come For the Flowers, Stay for the Critters

In addition to the insect life, there are any number of interesting creatures that you might encounter in the Gardens. Both blue and green herons frequent the park. Be sure to check out the boardwalk that comes after the ponds.

Turtles enjoy swimming among the lily pads.

Photo credits: ©Rob Klug left and top right; ©Miki Jourdan bottom right.

Recently, we had a crayfish sighting. At least we think it’s a crayfish. (We don’t have an entomologist on staff at The Uncommon District.)

©Angela N.

If you’re lucky, you might spot a fawn through the brush.

©Miki Jourdan

Egrets fish in the ponds.

©Miki Jourdan

And you might even see the most unusual species of all.

©Stacey Lewis

Join the Conversation


  1. Thank you for a glimpse of the refreshing beauty of nature. Flora and fauna remind me there is a bigger purpose on earth than the human ego.

    1. Thanks Gina! Parks and nature have helped me keep my sanity during the pandemic.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *