Nymphaea odorata (American White Water-lily)
|Also known as:||Fragrant White Water-lily|
|Habitat:||sun; ponds, slow moving water in mucky soil|
|Bloom season:||June - September|
|Plant height:||to 8 feet deep|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Single flower 3 to 6 inches across floating on still and slow moving waters. Flowers have 20 to 30 white petals and many yellow stamens, with a whorl of 4 green to purplish sepals at the base. They are fragrant, close at night and open in the morning.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves mostly float on the water as well, are round with a deep slit at the base, 4 to 12 inches in diameter, toothless, on long stems. The upper surface is green and somewhat glossy and often purplish on the underside. The stems are all green or striped brown/purple depending on the subspecies, and smooth or short-hairy. When water levels are low the leaves may rise above the water and become a bit wavy around the edges.
Fruit is round and berry-like, containing oval seeds 1/8 to nearly ¼ inch long.
American White Water-lily can form dense colonies, sometimes completely covering the surface of the water with leaves. The two subspecies, Nymphaea odorata var. odorata and var. tuberosa (formerly Nymphaea tuberosa), are not easily distinguished, especially viewing from above the plants. According to Flora of North America, an intermediate species exists around the Great Lakes region, including Minnesota, where the line is blurred. When the distinction is obvious, var. tuberosa leaves are more often green or slightly purplish on the underside and stems are striped; var. odorata leaves are typically purplish on the underside, stems are not striped, and flowers are much more fragrant.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- American White Water-lily plants
- a dense colony of American White Water-lily
- more flowers
- a fly party
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey and Washington counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Washington County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?