The intense perfumed fragrance of the lotus flowers grabbed my attention first.
My entire two-mile hike down the wooded Meadow Pond Trail at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge at the end of June, I was looking forward to seeing hundreds of pale yellow American lotus blossoms in bloom. I was drawn in by photos shared on social media of the incredible spectacle.
So on a hot summer morning, the scent of flowers as alluring as any perfume was my first clue that I was close to my reward for hiking in Texas’ summer heat. Then, a clearing appeared ahead with a small sign that read “Meadow Pond.”
As soon as I stepped forward out of the wooded area, I saw a sweeping vista filled with hundreds of lotus blossoms almost entirely blanketing the pond. Wind swept across the pond periodically, ruffling the flowers.
The American lotus is part of the water lily family, and these aquatic flowers (Latin name: Nelumbo Lutea) open in the morning and close by afternoon when in bloom. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, lotus flowers thrive in still water and sun in June through September in large swaths of the United States, especially along the Mississippi River.
The lotus flowers at Hagerman were so plentiful it was difficult to imagine any pond beneath them, but there were some small glimpses of water. Unlike water lilies that float on water atop lily pads, the lotus flowers tower on stalks well above the water.
The image of the rippling lotus field is still frozen in my mind, a beautiful and calming landscape.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “the lotus has, since ancient times, symbolized fertility and related ideas, including birth, purity, sexuality, rebirth of the dead, and in astrology, the rising sun.” The lotus was once also a food source for Native Americans.
There were no other people around when my dad and I visited the site, but there were plenty of birds. White great egrets perched atop trees like ornaments.
Birds swept across the green landscape, flitting from tree to tree.
Meanwhile, turkey vultures called out loudly to each other from the trees, and circled overhead.
In other stretches, enormous lily pads forming the base of the flowers floated on the water’s surface.
A closeup look at the actual flowers reveals the sturdy seed pods at their center.
In one case, a dragonfly took a break on a lotus blossom.
The most astonishing moment during my visit occurred when the silence was pierced by an approaching train, which eventually wound its way behind the lotus pond. The isolation of nature was broken by the reality of modernity as a train chugged along behind the lotus blossom field.
Once the train passed, I took a final few moments to take in these amazing aquatic plants.
We did not complete the entire nearly six-mile trail due to the growing heat of the afternoon. However, we still saw plenty of other highlights on the trail and at Hagerman besides the lotus flowers.
Along the trail, I spotted a flash of electric blue amongst some tall grasses. Quickly, I realized that I had spotted my first ever indigo bunting. I didn’t react quickly enough to grab a photo. Luckily, a second indigo bunting appeared shortly in a tree.
According to Audubon, the indigo bunting thrives in brush in rural areas, in pastures or at the forest’s edge, but does not like urban or agricultural areas. (This explains why I’ve never spotted one in Dallas!)
The trail is formed along a gravel road that is heavily wooded.
Both trees and amber waves of prairie grasses bordered the morning hike.
A second pond that was not covered by lotus blossoms situated closer to the trail head is Deaver Pond, also populated by birds and trees jutting out of the water.
I spotted some sprouts of bright purple Texas thistle alongside the pond. Texas thistle can grow two to five feet high, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
A bright blue chicory flower also stood out along the trail early on — just a single plant bearing beautiful blue blooms.
We parked near the trail head, near an oil well.
Just as we left the trail area, we had another pleasant surprise: a group of Canada geese and goslings.
If you are at Hagerman, make sure you stop at the Visitors Center (even if it’s not open) to see the spectacular butterfly garden filled with native plants. Regular walks are led through the garden.
The plants that we spotted included vibrant red hibiscus, black-eyed Susan flowers, and pink echinacea flowers — a fitting finale for a wonderful morning at the refuge!
- “The Call of the American Lotus,” The New York Times
- “The fleeting but spectacular bloom of Alabama’s lotus,” Al.com
- Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Website
- American Lotus, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
- “Guide to Meadow Pond Trail,” Friends of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
- “Butterfly Garden,” Friends of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge