Waterlily (Nymphaea odorata)

Educational Story

The Waterlily, Nymphaea odorata, is a native plant found in Florida freshwater environments, such as ponds, lakes, and rivers. Its leaves are large, rounded pads that float flat on the water’s surface, with a triangular slit on one side where the leaf attaches to the underwater stem or petiole that emerges from a thick, underwater rhizome.  The Waterlily has a strikingly beautiful, bright white flower that blooms during the morning to late afternoon, and closes up at night. The sweet honeysuckle-like fragrance attracts butterflies and other pollinators. The waterlily is native to Florida and the eastern United States and lower part of Canada. The species has become invasive in areas where it is sold commercially outside its native range, such as the Western US, where it spreads and creates problems in invaded habitats. The large Waterlily leaves cast shade, affecting the aquatic ecosystem below, including algae, bacteria and the rest of the foodweb.  It is an edible plant, and the leaves, stems and rhizomes can all be eaten.

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Gardening Facts

Scientific Name: Nymphaea odorata
Common Name: White Waterlily, Fragrant Water Lily
Description of facts and concepts: Perennial aquatic plant with large rhizomes that grows in shallow water and has large showy leaves and flowers that float on the surface of the water; plant is edible.
Seed or division information: Seeds are in pods; floats to the surface of the water to grow in other areas
Date of flower’s bloom (Month and week): Spring, summer, fall
Ecoregion: Slow moving, or stagnant, shallow bodies of water
Color of Flower: White
Height: 18-48 inches deep in water
Spread: 2-4 feet
Family: Nymphaeaceae (waterlily family)
Soil Type: Base to Acidic Wide pH range
Soil: Dry to Wet Submerged in water
Light: Sun to Shade Full sun to partial shade
Zone: 4A-10B