Facts and Benefits of American white waterlily

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­­­­­­­Facts and Benefits of American white waterlily

American white waterlily Quick Facts
Name: American white waterlily
Scientific Name: Nymphaea odorata
Origin Eastern North America
Shapes Depressed globular, fleshy body
Taste Pungent, bitter, Astringent
Nymphaea odorata, also known as the American white waterlily, Fragrant Water Lily, Cow cabbage, Cow lily, Fragrant water lily, Pond lily, Sweet scented pond lily, Sweet scented water lily, Sweet water lily, Toad lily, Water cabbage, Water nymph, White pond lily, White water lily, Tuberous water lily,  is an aquatic perennial plant belonging to the genus Nymphaea. The plant is native to Eastern North America, from Manitoba and Ontario to the Atlantic Provinces south to Texas and Florida. It can commonly be found in shallow lakes, ponds, and permanent slow moving waters throughout North America where it ranges from Central America to northern Canada. It is also described from Brazil and Guyana.

The water lily takes its genus name, Nymphaea, from the Greek numphe, meaning “water nymph” or “virgin”. The Greeks are said to have given the flower this name because of its reputed anti-aphrodisiac qualities. They grow from blackish, large, fleshy perennial rhizomes beneath the soil at the bottom of a water feature and have long, tubular stems that bring oxygen from the waxy green leaves that float on the surface to the underwater parts of the plant.

Plant Description

American white water lily is a perennial Strong-rooted aquatic herb that grows about 0.5–2 m (1.5–6.5 ft.) tall. The plant is found growing in acidic or alkaline ponds, lakes, sluggish streams and rivers, pools in marshes, ditches, canals, or sloughs, protected areas of lakes, and clear slow-moving rivers, particularly where dams have been constructed.  The plant grows to the surface of the water from a thick horizontal root-stock, stem is absent. It consists of blackish, large, fleshy perennial rhizome.


Leaves are always floating orbicular, smooth, and shining, dark green above, wine-color beneath. They are narrowly and deeply cut almost to the center, where the stem is attached.

Flowers & Fruit

Flowers are large, regular, bowl shaped, 5–20 cm (2–8 in.) wide, white or rose-colored, beautiful and fragrant. Only one flower on single stem that are white, fragrant, 2-6 inches across, and floating on the water. Flowers open in the early morning and close about noon. There are 4 sepals and many rows of white petals, often more than 25, which are 3/4-4 inches long, thick, and pointed at the tip. There are more than 70 stamens. The outer ones are large and petal-like; they become smaller toward the cent. Flowering normally takes place from Jul to August. Fruit is a depressed globular, fleshy body that consists of seeds that are oblong, stipulate.

Some Popular water lily species

1. ‘Afterglow’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Afterglow’ offers magical coloring (pink flowers touched with shades of yellow and orange) on its very fragrant flowers during the day. Plants spread 6-8 feet.

2. ‘Arc en Ciel’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Arc en Ciel’ offers showy foliage; each leaf is unique, with splashes of pink, yellow, cream, and sometimes red. Pale pink flowers open in daytime and fade as they age. Plants spread to 4-5 feet wide.

3. Cape blue water lily

Nymphaea capensis is a day-bloomer that features fragrant light blue flowers with a distinct star shape that rise above the floating leaves in summer. The plant spreads 5-8 feet.

4. ‘Carolina Sunset’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Carolina Sunset’ bears peach-color blooms during the day and grows to 8 inches wide.

5. ‘Chromatella’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Chromatella’ bears small yellow flowers during the day, as well as attractive purple-mottled foliage. This dwarf variety is perfect for petite ponds and container gardens, and it tolerates light shade.

6. ‘Colorado’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Colorado’ delights with vivid pink-peach day-blooming flowers tipped in pale yellow. Its new leaves are burgundy, adding extra interest. The plants grow 3-5 feet across.

7. European white water lily

Nymphaea Alba bears cup-shape white flowers, sometimes tinged pink, around a center of showy stamens. The dark green leaves have red undersides. The plant spreads 5-1/2 feet.

8. Fragrant water lily

Nymphaea odorata is a North American native that’s fast-growing and endowed with very fragrant flowers. Held high above the foliage, the white blooms are 6-8 inches in diameter. Plants spread 5-7 feet wide.

9. ‘George L. Thomas’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘George L. Thomas’ offers shimmering, deep pink blooms during the day. This fast-growing plant needs a larger pond to show off its glory. It spreads 6-12 feet.

10. ‘Helvola’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Helvola’ is a miniature day-blooming variety that produces small yellow flowers among leaves streaked with purple. It spreads to 2-3 feet.

11. ‘Hot Pink’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Hot Pink’ is an award-winning tropical water lily that sports large, neon-pink flowers that remain open until late in the day. The green foliage is mottled with reddish brown. It spreads 4 feet.

12. ‘Luciana’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Luciana’ is a classic day-blooming variety that generously produces 6-inch-wide pink flowers over a long season. It is adaptable to low light. This plant spreads 3-4 feet wide.

13. ‘Marliacea Carnea’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Marliacea Carnea’ unfolds glowing flowers with a subtle pink blush during the day. It is vigorous, flowers freely, and flourishes in larger ponds. Plants spread 4-5 feet.

14. ‘Midnight’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Midnight’ produces small, lightly fragrant lavender blooms during the day. The plants spread 4-6 feet.

15. ‘Mrs. George H. Pring’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Mrs. George H. Pring’ is an award-winning variety that features fragrant day-blooming single, large white blooms with a ring of showy yellow stamens at the center.

16. ‘Peach Glow’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Peach Glow’ features large, luminous peach flowers during the day that pale to white as they reach the end of their four-day bloom. This free-flowering variety continues to produce blooms into the fall. Plants spread 5-7 feet.

17. ‘Rembrandt’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Rembrandt’ bears rose-pink blooms during the day that age to deep red. The plants spread 4-5 feet.

18. ‘Shirley Bryne’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Shirley Bryne’ bears vibrant-pink cup-shape blooms during the day.

19. ‘Texas Dawn’ water lily

Nymphaea ‘Texas Dawn’ is a glorious day-blooming hybrid that holds its clusters of large yellow flowers up to the sun. It spreads 3-5 feet.

Traditional uses and benefits of American White water lily

  • Root is alterative, anodyne, antiseptic, astringent and demulcent.
  • Tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of TB, chronic bronchial complaints, diarrhea, dysentery, gastrointestinal inflammation, gonorrhea, vaginal discharge, inflamed glands, mouth sores and to stop bleeding.
  • Poultice made from the roots is used in the treatment of swellings, boils, tumors, inflamed skin, vaginitis etc.
  • A complete cure of uterine cancer by a decoction and uterine injection has been recorded.
  • Leaves and roots have been used in form of poultice to boils, tumors, scrofulous ulcers and inflamed skin.
  • Infusion is used as a gargle for ulcers in the mouth and throat.
  • Poultice of leaves and roots relieves boils, tumors, ulcers, and inflamed skin.
  • Extracts from the rhizome have astringent, demulcent, and anti-microbial properties, and may be used to treat chronic diarrhea, pharyngitis and leucorrhoea.
  • Traditionally, the rhizome of this species was used; by the Chippewa to treat sores in the mouth, by the Micmac to treat colds, coughs and grippe, and swelled limbs, and by the Ojibwa as a cough medicine for tuberculosis.
  • Externally, a poultice made for painful swellings, boils, ulcers, wounds, and cuts.
  • Apply the powdered root, combined with flaxseed, as a poultice.
  • Tea made from the root makes a good gargle for irritation and/or inflammation in the mouth and throat, used as eyewash, and a vaginal douche.
  • As a lotion, it helps heal sores, makes skin soft and smooth.
  • Both root and leaves are sometimes made into poultices for wounds, cuts, and bruises.
  • Native Americans used root tea for coughs, tuberculosis (TB), inflamed glands, and mouth sores, to stop bleeding.
  • Folk tradition, a mixture of root and lemon juice was used to remove freckles and pimples.
  • Stem could be used to treat tooth aches if placed directly on the tooth.
  • Rhizome was used, superstitiously as an anaphrodisiac to suppress sexual excitement and spermatorrhoea.
  • Powdered root can be dusted onto irritated surface especially useful in diaper rash or when the female organs have become irritated.

Ayurvedic Health benefits

  • Cough: Add 1 or 2 tsp of dried Nymphaea odorata root in a cup of warm water. Boil it for 5 minutes. Strain well and drink it lukewarm. Have it 2 times a day to treat cough.

Culinary Uses

  • Flower buds are cooked as a vegetable or pickled.
  • Young flowers are consumed raw.
  • Leaves are consumed raw or cooked.
  • Leaves are used in soups and stews.
  • Ripe seed are cooked or ground into a meal.
  • Root is Boiled or roasted.

Other facts

  • It is cultivated in aquatic gardens as an ornamental plant.
  • It is offensive and weedy on the west coast of North America.
  • Plant was nicknamed “the destroyer of pleasure” because of its powers as a “love-killer.”















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