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Marcus, Joseph A.
Nymphaea odorata Aiton
American white waterlily, American white water-lily, Fragrant white water lily, White water lily, Fragrant water lily, White water lily
USDA Symbol: nyod
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, 2–6 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 3/4–4 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 7—13 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.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Leaf Retention: Deciduous Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Breeding System:
Flowers Bisexual Size Notes:
Green Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct
, WV Canada: BC
, 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 ConditionsWater Use:
High Light Requirement:
Sun , Part Shade , Shade Soil Moisture:
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.
BenefitUse 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
Root Division Description:
Increase by rhizome
division. Barely cover the rhizomes with soil and place within 6-8 in. of the water surface until several new leaves have appeared; at that time move to deeper water. Seed Collection:
stalk contracts after flowering and a globe-shaped fruit
with many seeds matures under water. Seed Treatment:
Not Available Commercially Avail:
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
Record Last Modified: 2013-09-12
Research By: TWC Staff, WFS