Shilpa’s Wildflower Highlights » American White Waterlily

This one is hard to miss, especially as they are spectacular showy flowers with sweet fragrance! American white water lily (Nymphaea odorata) or fragrant water lily is a beautiful aquatic plant, native to most states of the United States. They can be commonly found in ponds, protected areas of lakes, clear slow-moving rivers, marshes, bogs, and water gardens.

❋ This perennial floating plant can grow in water up to 8 inches deep. The leaves develop directly from the root with long petioles. Leaves are about circular, 4-12 inch across, with a cleft towards the middle on one side, they are smooth above and along the outer margin. The upper surface of the leaves is medium green with fine veins radiating from the center to the periphery.

❋ The flower is 3-6 inches across, with four greenish white sepals that rest on the water surface and the spectacular white petals (25 or even more) and a yellow center stay above. The flower stalk develops from the same rootstock. Each flower stalk is unbranched and bears a single floating flower on its apex. The appearance of the flower stalk is similar to the leaves petioles.

❋ The yellow center of the flower is actually the congregation of many golden yellow stamens surrounding a single pistil. The blooming period occurs during the summer to early fall. Each flower lasts for approximately 4 days. Each day the flower opens up in the morning and closes during the afternoon. Once the flower is pollinated, the developing fruit is pulled back under the water for maturation.

❋ Besides its aesthetic values, the white water lily is important for its ecosystem functioning: (i) The flower with its abundant pollen attracts many pollinators including bees, various flies, and beetles; (ii) the submerged part of the plant provides habitat for many macro and micro invertebrates; (iii) these invertebrates, in turn, are used as food by fish and other vertebrates (amphibians, reptilians, ducks etc.); (iv) there are insects that feed on the leaves and petioles of water lilies; (v) various turtles also feed on the leaves, petioles, and fruits/seeds of water lilies; (vi) the rootstock and foliage are favorite food for beavers and muskrat, even sometimes, the white-tailed deer enter the water to feed on water lily foliage, and (vii) water lily pads are even said to be a principal item in the summer diet of Moose.

July 19th 2018 | by  Shilpa Sen 

Disclaimer: I’m not a wildflower expert.. but being an environmental scientist (professionally) and a #naturalist (by heart), I am passionate about the natural world around me. I use this wildflower series to share my passion with my connections. (All the photographs are taken by me).

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