Saturday, November 13, 2010


Spatterdock is a common emergent plant also known as cow lily, alligator bonnet, alligator blanket, and yellow pond lily. Spatterdock runs a tight race as a favorite name next to alligator bonnet. “Alligator bonnet” paints a cherished image in my imagination, but “spatterdock” has rhythm and mystery going for it.

I’ve looked at many online sites and checked my books – but I haven’t been able to find the origins of the common name of spatterdock. Perhaps the leaves reminded someone once of a heart-shaped leaved dock, but why “spatter”? Maybe one of my learned friends can tell me.

This plant seems to grow nearly everywhere in the United States, and was used historically for food and medicine by native people. The rhizome was used as a starchy vegetable in stews, or dried and ground for baking flour. The seeds were cooked like popcorn. Medicinally, the roots were used for poultices, and the leaves to stop bleeding.

Although an altogether useful plant, I was content last week to sit on the dock and enjoy the bright yellow flowers against the dark, wind-rippled water, and trace the outlines of the varied heart-shaped leaves on my paper. If you’d like to see a bit more of this plant, this link from the University of Florida has a video that includes a look at the rhizome.

You can click on the image above to view it larger on my Flickr photostream.