Nymphaea odorata subsp. odorata

Nymphaea odorata subsp. odorata is found in most North American states and provinces, though its presence in western North America is by way of introduction (see Non-native Invasive Freshwater Plants — Fragrant Water Lily from the Washington Department of Ecology). It is also found in Mexico, Central America and the West Indies (and naturalized in parts of South America).

Various vernacular names are used for this taxon, but as odorata means “fragrant” or “scented”, my preference is fragrant water lily. However, American white water lily and variations thereof are also common.

Several adaptations are required for plants to survive in an aquatic environment. For water lily, these include having stomata (pores for gas exchange) solely on the upper leaf surface (in most dryland plants, stomata are concentrated on the lower leaf surface) and air chambers running the length of the stem to deliver oxygen to the plant’s rhizomes (more photos of Nymphaea odorata, including rhizomes). Interestingly, stomata in the related Nymphaea lutea have lost the ability to regulate the size of the opening for gas exchange and instead remain permanently open (and presumably this is the case for Nymphaea odorata as well). This is unsurprising, though, as water loss through gas exchange pores is not a concern for aquatic plants.

Nymphaea odorata
Nymphaea odorata

14 responses to “Nymphaea odorata subsp. odorata”

  1. George L. in Vermont

    These are growing near the shore in the swimming hole around the corner – you can swim next to them, look through the stems of the lily community and look up them to the leaves and the blossoms breasting the surface! Gorgeous, wild, northern beauties!

  2. onlyheaven

    GORGEOUS. Is there any hope of cultivating water lilies in Southern California? I know there are wonderful species of this at the Huntington Park Library & Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, CA, about 50 miles north of where I live. I’m just wondering what would be some basic temperature and additional requirements for water lilies to thrive? Besides water! 🙂

  3. Susan B

    My parents have a cottage on a small lake in Wisconsin- the water lilies there are a horrible, invasive pest. They make fishing and boating (rowboat and canoe) almost impossible. Every year they take over more of the lake.
    We were always told they are illegal to pick, but I don’t know if that is true or not.

  4. yousatonmycactus

    There are many varietys of water lilies at Lotusland in Montecito, CA. as well as in Ventura, CA., including Nelumbo nucifera or Lotus.

  5. Cambree

    That is pretty… I’ve never seen so much in one place. Beautiful close up pic.

  6. bev

    Your substitutes did a wonderful job, but there is just something intangible about your writing style that I missed very much, and am so glad to have back.

  7. Earl Blackstock

    So beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Janet A.

    Daniel, thanks for the explanation about how the plants can live in water. I had wondered. Does the second photo show a part of the lake taken over by the water lilies?

  9. elizabeth a airhart

    the pictures are lovely
    and fine reading
    where else are we off to

  10. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Ah, the water lilies…. I love them so.
    These photos (and the linked ones) are very beautiful, and they remind me so much of childhood vacations by Ontario’s waterways. It felt as though the day was charmed, whenever we came across water lilies in bloom. And their fragrance is lovely.
    The type of environment shown in the lower photo has always appealed to me. Soemthing about the quiet, undisturbed, untended-ness.

  11. Alexander Jablanczy

    Isabella Valancy Crawford …………………..
    THE LILY BED ………………………………
    His cedar paddle scented red ………………..
    He thrust down through the lily bed………….

  12. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    The first photo is one of the loveliest I’ve seen of the water lily flower. Would you consider posting a link to a high-resolution version?

  13. Jennifer Frazer

    Thanks for the great biology details! More great factoids to store away for giving friends and family tours of ye olde local botanic gardens. . .

  14. Sara

    It is beutiful. Specially the picture with tons of them. Very calming.

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