The Life of a Lily

by Emily Bonnett


Lily Berns is a curious little girl who loves to play outside. One beautiful summer day Lily and her parents make their way to a nearby pond. At the pond Lily finds that there are many more water lilies in the pond compared to last year. Lily curiously asks her father about how the water lilies survive in such deep water. As Lily’s father explains how water lilies survive Lily listens carefully. Lily learns the basic components of a lily and how they survive living in the nearby pond.


  • Petiole stalk that connects the stem of the lily to the pedals.
  • Aerenchyma – cells that can only be found in floating plants.
  • Rhizome – a root like structure that keeps the lilies alive.
  • Mature – developed or fully grown
  • Cell – the smallest living thing; carry out a variety of jobs within living things
  • Pollination – the transfer of pollen

Little Lily Berns had just woken up from a night’s rest. She looks outside to see a beautiful sunny summer day. She throws off her bed covers, changes out of her pajamas, and runs as fast as she can out of her bedroom. As Lily runs for the front door, she passes her mother and her father in the kitchen.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry?” asked Lily’s father.            

“Oh, it’s such a beautiful summer day outside. I want to play outside all day long!” said Lily.

“How about you first have some breakfast and then we will all go outside and play all day long,” Lily’s mother said.       

Lily was slightly annoyed that she couldn’t go outside and play right away. She knew that the quicker she ate her breakfast the sooner she would be able to go outside. So, Lily ran to the kitchen, poured herself a bowl of cereal with milk, and started eating it as quickly as she could.

“Slow down Lily the beautiful day will still be ready for you when you’re done eating your breakfast,” scolded Lily’s mother.

After deeply sighing Lily finished eating the rest of her cereal.

“I’m done eating now. Can we please go outside?” Lily begged.

Laughing Lily’s father says…

“Yes, Lily we can.”

Lily and her parents put their shoes on and made their way outside.

“Today is a perfect day to go play at the pond. Do you want to walk over and go play by the pond Lily?” asked father.

“Yes! Yes!” squealed Lily. We haven’t been to the pond in such a long time!

Lily excitedly started running in the direction of the pond.

            “Wait for use sweetheart!” yelled Lily’s mother.

Lily slowed down and waited for her parents to catch up. They continued walking towards the pond. The pond was about a ten minute walk away from Lily’s house. Lily had been to the pond many many times before, but she hadn’t been there since before winter. Lily was so excited to see what the pond looked like now.

As Lily and her parents made their way to the pond Lily could smell the pond in the distance. Lily smelled a familiar smell.

“I can smell the water lilies!! We’re getting closer!” Lily shouted excitedly.

As Lily’s parents laughed at her excitement the pond came into view. They walked up to the big blue pond with the white water lilies sticking up out of the water.

“Wow” Lily said. “There are so many water lilies compared to last year.”

Lily and her parents walk to the edge of the water just as a white water lily shifts its way to where Lily was standing. Lily bends down and touches the pedals of the flower.

“Dad, how do water lilies survive in all this water?” Lily asked.

“Well Lily water lilies are very interesting flowers. The water lilies have a petiole which is a stalk that connects the stem of the lily to its pedals. The petiole stretches all the way to the mud at the bottom of the pond” Lily’s father said.

“Wow! I thought they just floated! I never even knew they had a stem!”

Lily and her parents walk a little farther around the pond. Lily stops and looks at a broken water lily stem.

“Whoa” said Lily. “Look at the inside of the stem!”

“The stem looks spongy and white because those are cells that help the water lilies stay afloat in the water. The cells are called aerenchyma and can only be found in floating plants.”

“Why are some of the lilies below the surface and some above the water?” Lily curiously asked.

“Well,” said father, “ the lilies need light and air to survive. So, they come to the surface to get the light and air they need. The lilies have a rhizome that is stuck in the mud at the bottom of the pond. This rhizome keeps the lilies alive and without air they will die. So the white cells or the aerenchyma in the stem forms chains of oxygen filled cells that will make its way to the rhizome. As for some of the flowers being above the water and some below that is all about pollination,” Father said.

Lily continued to listen carefully.

“The lilies want to be pollinated. The lilies will rise above the water in order to invite pollinators to come pollinate them. Once they have been pollinated, they will go back under the water for several weeks while their seeds mature. Once the seeds of the lily are grown the lily will resurface and the seeds will pop from the lily onto the surface of the water.”

“There is so much to learn about water lilies! I never knew they could be so complicated!” Lily said.

“There is so much more for you to learn about these lilies,” Father told Lily.

“I would love to learn more but can we come back another day? It is getting very hot outside and I think I want to go play inside now,” Lily exhaustedly said.

Lily’s mother and father laughed and said…

“Of course, dear. We can come back anytime you would like.”


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Humanizing Science through STEAM Challenges Copyright © 2021 by E.J. Bahng and John M. Hauptman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.