Photographers' Tour, Part 1

Busy, busy, busy, I have been.  But any time I’m on the water, it’s a good busy!  This story is definitely a two-parter, and this morning I’m struggling with which images to share with you.  I took close to one hundred images on Monday’s tour with an amazing young photo artist named Christy Speakman, who is definitely going places with her artistic abilities.

We covered some territory that is not typically on my wetland tour route, so it was an adventure for me also.  After visiting my favorite place, the swamp that is part of my wetland tour, we embarked on a longer boat ride up into the Mandalay Wildlife Refuge . . .

where we saw some amazingly beautiful cypress trees on the eastern border of Minor’s Canal, which is an older navigational route from southwest Houma down to Lake Decade.

On the western border, off in the distance, we caught glimpses of a beautiful freshwater marsh.  If you look closely at the photo, you can see some white dots floating on the water, which are what some folks call water lilies.  We were wishing we could boat our way into that gorgeous scene . . .

but decided we better not go any further once we came upon this sign.  I would surely hate to be stopped by Wildlife and Fisheries two weeks in a row!

And then this nearby sign . . .

had me wondering if someone had fed the alligators something that made them go elsewhere, because on that long boat ride, we didn’t see one alligator up in that pristine swamp and marsh.  Strange, indeed, unless alligators really are smarter than we think and decided to hang out in the cool shady waters that day.

Mother Nature pretty much thumbed her nose at that sign for us, as she provided us with a very closeup and personal view of those “water lilies” in open water.

Lily pad

Most folks just call this a lily pad, and really don’t think much about it, but they have an amazing beauty all their own, especially when they are cupped like this one, holding rainwater, becoming a natural watering hole for swamp creatures, or maybe even a bird bath.  Yes, I have a vivid imagination.  Some of these pads are as big as a foot across and remind me of a song my kids used to sing,

“Froggie sitting on a lily pad, looking at the sky.  Lily pad broke, frog fell in, got water in his eye.  Ohhhhh, it ain’t gonna rain no more, no more.  It ain’t gonna rain no more.
How in the heck can I wash my neck if it ain’t gonna rain no more?”

So, if you’re not impressed with a common, everyday lily pad, maybe you’ll be impressed by the flowers that keep them company.

Better known was the American Lotus flower, the one above is just a bloom, not yet opened.

If the blossom didn’t impress you, maybe the full-out flower will.  They are at least eight inches across, and just look at the center!  What a marvelous yellow-green color.  Impressed yet?

If not, then hold on to your bloomers, because the best is yet to come.

As the center grows to full maturity and the flower petals die off, it turns a darker green in color, indicating full ripeness.  Ripeness?  Yes, because inside these pods are a delicacy known to the bayou-dwelling Native Americans for many years.  The seeds are harvested green from these pods and can be eaten just like peanuts–raw, boiled, fried, and after Cajuns were introduced to these tasty morsels, they threw them in a stew, as Cajuns are known to do.  Furthermore, the seeds are said to be an aphrodisiac, but I can’t vouch for that fact.

If the pods are not picked, they mature on the stem, eventually dry out, turn brown, and as the casing shrinks up, the seeds are squeezed out into the surrounding waters, thereby propagating a new crop of this multi-faceted water plant, known around here not as water lilies, but as Graine a Voler, (grahn uh voh LAY), which when translated literally means “seeds that fly” in reference to the action of the seeds being cast naturally from the pods into the water.  Graine a Voler refers to the plant and all its parts, not just the seeds, and a marsh pond covered in these plants while in full bloom is a sight to behold.  In a strong wind, the pads (leaves) flap in the breeze like big wings.  (Yes, I have seen this with my own bayou woman eyes!).

And then there was this curiosity commonly called water lettuce or water cabbage.

It’s been floating in these freshwater bayous and ponds for so long, that it is considered a native aquatic plant, but some scientists insist that it was brought here hundreds of years ago in the bilges of foreign ships.

No matter, it is not a plant you would want to chop up and stick in your salad, as it contains some chemicals that will burn that heck out of your lips and throat.  However, when times got tough for the bayou dwellers, they found that if they boiled it long enough, most of the burning could be cooked out, and I guess sort of like boiled cabbage, it would do in a pinch.  If I ever try it, I’ll be sure I have a nice big chunk of salt meat to smother it down with!

We got so wrapped up in what we were seeing and photographing, like . . .

this chunk of floating marsh (flottant) drifting down the canal and . . .

and this great egret with a crawfish stuck in its throat, that before we knew it, we were north of the Intracoastal Waterway and on the edge of a southwest Houma waterfront neighborhood.  Oops, time to turn around and go back.

It was a great photographic adventure and one I hope will produce astounding images for Christy and her husband’s collaborative project.  Sorry to be so secretive, but once it’s ready for public viewing, you’ll be among the first to know!

Stay tuned for Part 2 with a local, prize-winning photographer and environmentalist!


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  1. A very informative post! I enjoy learning about wild foods that can or can’t be eaten. I’m in the process of learning desert foods that I can eat here. I’m looking forward to part 2 of this post.

    1. I knew you would like it. It’s really the capsulated version but I wanted to be able to cover everything! Hope you are well. Time for an email?

  2. This is why a lot of folks have water gardens. Aqua-gardening is fascinating. I’ve always enjoyed water lilies and some of their stunning flowers. Wonderful pictures. Thanks for the edible information I didn’t know about.

    1. You are most welcome, Cuz, and thanks so much for commenting here AND on FB. That’s very generous of you! Mwah! You’re gonna love the next installment!

  3. Great post … and very timely. I noticed one of my facebook friends posted that she had Graine a Voler for sale, and I was wondering what she was talking about. I even tried to google it!

    1. REALLY? She goes to all the trouble to find it and harvest it? Do you know if she gathers it or has someone else do it for her? You should ask her more about it because it’s quite time consuming! But it ’tis the season to be gathering! I will be going back to harvest some soon . . . .

  4. I am so jealous!! Thanks to my heart I had to give up my boat… but Man thats beautiful….who would want to live anywhere else??

    1. How right you are! So, do you like oak cheniers? Sorry you had to give up your boat, but if you’d like to take this tour and you can get 3 more folks together, you know how to reach me!!! PS Thanks for “following” my blog! BW

      1. My dear.. I will definitely keep it in mind…Mike And thank you for sharing our beautiful state!!

        1. Are you the Mike Chenier I recently saw posting on a mutual friend’s Facebook page? If so, thanks for hopping over from there to here, reading, and commenting! BW

  5. Love all your blogs! I read them over abs over again and wait for new ones to arrive!! I have learned so much from your blogs!! Keep up the great work 🙂

    1. Thanks, Megan. I love writing them, but the busier I get this seems to be the one thing that suffers most : (. Takes a lot of time to produce a decent blog post worth reading!!! But so glad you’re still here!

    1. Michelle, welcome to the bayou. Where are you from? I hope you get to come after things cool off a bit! It is so hot right now, it’s almost unbearable when you’re standing still! Thanks for reading the blog and leaving a comment, too! BW

      1. Thanks!! I am transplated from Texas but not true Texan either. I was transplanted from Colorado. I met and married my second husband (now ex) in Venice/Buras of all places. I had 2 children from my marriage. My daughter was Born at Charity Hospital New Orleans and was laid to rest in St Patricks #3 there and my son was born in Abbeville. My son and I left and went back to Texas after my divorce and after spending about 11 years back there decided it was time to come home after I got laid off from my job. There are things here that I Love and hate, the heat of course being the thing you hate. I am trying to get my sister and step-mom to make a trip over and let them see the beauty of this place that I have come to Love and Call Home. Truly love your Blog and am so excited that I stumbled across it.
        Blessings, Michelle

  6. “Furthermore, the seeds are said to be an aphrodisiac, but I can’t vouch for that fact.” Correct me if I’m wrong. You’re married to a Native American AND you have 5 children!

    Waiting on part 2

  7. What? No comments this morning? That’s like not having coffee when I get up. Guess I better get cracking on Part 2 since y’all are so demanding these days! Spoiled brats is more like it. (Let’s see who gets stirred into action by this little comment!)

  8. Yeah, boy! I already left a post. I was just back here to read more comments. Drinking my coffee and heading to work.

  9. Yesterday I saw a pink flamingo at the bottom of the off ramp onto Bayou Dularge. Are they common here? I’d never seen one except in the Bahamas.

    1. It would have been a “roseate spoonbill” and not a flamingo, Monica. A common mistake! The roseate spoonbills are common here, but we don’t usually see them in the hot summer months. You were one of the lucky few!

  10. Personally, I love the huge lily-pad-leaves better than the flowers. And the rafts of floating green remind me of what happens here after flooding rains. Hydrilla gets torn loose upstream, comes down Clear Creek and fills up Galveston Bay. It’s just a hoot to see it looking like a swamp out there!

    It’s been so hot here that most of our birds have disappeared. The Louisiana heron is still out and about, though, and just an occasional egret. We’re all keeping an eye on the new systems that suddenly have popped up!

  11. I’m late to comment on this because I’ve been traveling with my camera – soaking in as much of Louisiana’s landscape as possible. Thank you Wendy for such an amazing tour – it was truly magical – so many amazing birds and flowers- every corner of the swamp is bursting with life. I agree with the comment above – why would anyone want to live anywhere else? This floating liquid land is the most beautiful I’ve seen. Our day was the highlight of my trip!

    1. And I, my new friend, consider myself very fortunate that you found me and wrote me that first email. It was my pleasure to share this beauty with you, just as it is, for the value it is; but it’s especially good to help you with your project that will bring more focus on our ongoing plight here and fight for our own “sense of place” and culture. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip too, as it’s very rewarding to see another person’s reaction to and appreciation of the beauty we have here. I suspect we will be keeping in touch, and let me know if I can help you in any way, either with the project or just some motherly advice!