Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Nymphaea odorata

American White Water-lily, Fragrant White Water-lily, Fragrant Water-lily, White Water-lily, Sweet-scented White Water-lily, Sweet-scented Water-lily, Beaver root

Nymphaeaceae (Water-Lily Family)

Nymphaea odorata (American white water-lily)
Marcus, Joseph A.
A floating aquatic plant with large, fragrant, white or pink flowers and flat, round, floating leaves. The leaves have long stems and are bright green above and reddish or purplish underneath, almost round. They are narrowly and deeply cut almost to the center, where the stem is attached. They are up to 10 inches across, floating on the surface of the water or just beneath. There is 1 flower to a stem, white, fragrant, 26 inches across, and floating on the water. Flowers open in the early morning and close about noon. There are 4 sepals and many rows of white petals, often more than 25, which are 3/44 inches long, thick, and pointed at the tip. There are more than 70 stamens. The outer ones are large and petal-like; they become smaller toward the center.

One of the most common white water-lilies, Fragrant Water-lilys flowers and leaves float on the water. It usually flowers only from early morning until noon. The stomata, tiny openings on the leaf surface through which carbon dioxide and other gases pass into the plant, are on the upper, shiny leaf surface rather than on the lower surface as is the case for most dry-land plants. The leaf stalk, which is soft and spongy, has 4 main air channels for the movement of gases, especially oxygen, from the leaves to the large stems (rhizomes) buried in the muck, which are frequently eaten by muskrats. The Small White Water-lily (N. tetragona), has white flowers 2 1/2 (6.3 cm) wide with only 713 petals, that open in the afternoon. Native to the northeastern United States, it is found in Canada, south to northwest Maine, and west to northern Michigan and Minnesota and a few places in Washington and Idaho.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Size Notes: 0-1
Fruit: Green
Size Class: 0-1 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct


USA: AL , AK , AZ , AR , CA , CO , CT , DE , FL , GA , ID , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , MT , NE , NV , NH , NJ , NM , NY , NC , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VT , VA , WA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: BC , MB , NB , NS , ON , PE , QC , SK
Native Distribution: Nf. to s. Man, s. to FL & TX; naturalized westward
Native Habitat: In ponds, lakes, slow streams, and ditches in southeast Texas. Sand, loam, clay, mud.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet
Aquatic: yes
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Any pond bottom, Shallow water.
Conditions Comments: One of the most common white water-lilies, Fragrant Water-lilys flowers and leaves float on the water. It usually flowers only from early morning until noon. The fragrant, white flowers of this rhizomatous, aquatic perennial are 3-6 in. across when open, but they close at night or on very cloudy days.


Use Ornamental: Aromatic, Bog or pond area, Water garden
Use Wildlife: Waterfowl and mammals eat the buoyant seeds and other parts of the plant.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds

Last Update: 2016-09-27