Wednesday’s Wildflower: American White Water Lily

Nymphaea odorata
Submitted by Lynn Sweetay, Palm Beach Chapter

White Water Lilies, Linda Sweetay, Palm Beach County 

One of my very favorite wild flowers is Nymphaea odorata, commonly known as the American White Water Lily.  As the name suggests this is a floating aquatic plant (Nymphaea = water sprite; odorata =fragrance) with large, fragrant, white or pink flowers and flat, round, floating leaves. 

The leaves are bright green above and purplish beneath.  It is native to Eastern North America from Florida to Canada.  It can be found in still shallow water (5-7 ft deep) with mucky bottoms.

The flowers open in the morning and remain open until around noon.  There is one flower to a stem, each flower is 2 to 6 inches wide with many rows of white petals.  Petals are ¾ to 4 inches long and pointed at the tip. There can be more than 25 petals to one flower!

White Water Lilies, Linda Sweetay, Palm Beach County 

The abundant pollen of the flowers attracts small bees (mainly Halictid), various flies, and beetles Turtles also feed on the leaves, petioles, and fruits/seeds of water lilies, as well as muskrats and deer.

It can be easily grown in a water garden or pond. I like the look of it floating among the small cypress trees at Sand Hill Crane Park in Palm Beach Gardens.

This plant flowers from February to November, or almost all year!

White Water Lilies, Linda Sweetay, Palm Beach County 

Family: Nymphaeaceae

USF Plant Atlas: Nymphaea odorata


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