There is a magical place in Northeast where bald eagles rule the sky, waterlilies of all colors and sizes blanket the ponds and dragonflies flitter about. This is the enchanted world of Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, the National Park Service’s only space dedicated to cultivating water-loving plants.
The ponds, which feature hearty waterlilies, lotus and tropical waterlilies, were the creation of one man: Walter Shaw. After the Civil War (during which he lost his right arm), Shaw bought land along the Anacostia River. A Maine native, he is said to have started growing waterlilies as a way to curb his homesickness.
The hearty waterlilies begin blooming in mid-May and are followed by the lotus (mid-June) and the tropical waterlilies (mid-July). Because the winter has been so mild, park rangers believe the blooms might be early this year. And never fear mosquitoes: Dragonflies, fish and bats keep them in check.
In addition to the 10 acres of manmade ponds full of waterlilies and lotus, the park’s more than 30 acres of freshwater tidal marsh teem with rich wildlife. Songbirds, beavers, turtles and butterflies all call the area home.
--Amy Orndorff, April 20, 2012