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Nymphaea odorata Aiton ssp. tuberosa (Paine) Wiersma & Hellquist

Fragrant white water lily

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassMagnoliidaeIncludes magnolias, nutmeg, bay laurel, cinnamon, avocado, black pepper, and many others
OrderNymphaealesWater lilies and other aquatic plants
FamilyNymphaeaceaeWater lily family
GenusNymphaeaFrom the Greek Νυμφαία, possibly related to Νύμφη, meaning “nymph”

About plant names...

Tuberous water lily is native to North and Central America. The name derives from egg-sized brown tubers on the roots, which are edible. Beautiful in the wild, and coveted as an ornamental, it is nevertheless considered an invasive in some habitats. Plants spread slowly, but they eventually commandeer large patches of water less than eight feet deep at the expense of other plants.

Identification: Water lilies are instantly recognizable by their 4-12″ (10-30 cm), round, flat leaves, often turned up slightly at the edges in order to float. If they are flowering, as they do during the first half of the day, you'll see their large, very attractive, white (sometimes pink), fragrant blossoms. These iconic blossoms are 5-9″ (12-22 cm) around, with 25 or more white petals and yellow centers made up of as many as 70 stamens.

Edibility: Young unrolling leaves and unopened flower buds may be boiled for 5-10 minutes and served buttered; root tubers may be prepared like potatoes.

Online References:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

The USDA Plants Database


The Encyclopedia of Life


Castalia tuberosa (Paine) Greene

Nymphaea odorata Aiton var. maxima (Conrad) B. Boivin

Nymphaea tuberosa Paine


Nymphaea odorata ssp. tuberosa description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Nymphaea odorata (fragrant white water lily)

6/15/2010 · Garden in the Woods, Framingham, Mass­a­chu­setts

Nymphaea odorata (fragrant white water lily)

6/15/2010 · Garden in the Woods, Framingham, Mass­a­chu­setts


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