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Nymphaea odorata - Aiton.

Common Name Fragrant Water Lily, American white waterlily
Family Nymphaeaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Acidic or alkaline ponds, lakes, sluggish streams and rivers, pools in marshes, ditches, canals, or sloughs from sea level to 1700 metres[270].
Range N. America - Newfoundland to British Columbia, south to California, Florida, Mexico and Cuba.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Water Plants Full sun
Nymphaea odorata Fragrant Water Lily, American white waterlily

Nymphaea odorata Fragrant Water Lily, American white waterlily


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Physical Characteristics

Nymphaea odorata is a PERENNIAL.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5. It is in flower from July to August, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Flies, beetles. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It can grow in water.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map




Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Root  Seed
Edible Uses:

Flower buds - cooked as a vegetable or pickled[55, 105, 177, 183]. Young flowers - raw[55]. Leaves - raw or cooked[207]. Used in soups and stews[55, 177, 183]. Root[105, 183]. Boiled or roasted[207]. Ripe seed - cooked or ground into a meal[207].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Anodyne  Antidiarrhoeal  Antiseptic  Astringent  Cancer  Demulcent  Dysentery  TB

The root is alterative, anodyne, antiseptic, astringent and demulcent[4, 21, 165, 238]. A tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of TB, chronic bronchial complaints, diarrhoea, dysentery, gastrointestinal inflammation, gonorrhoea, vaginal discharge, inflamed glands, mouth sores and to stop bleeding[222, 238]. A poultice made from the roots is used in the treatment of swellings, boils, tumours, inflamed skin, vaginitis etc[222, 238]. The roots are harvested in the autumn once the plant has died down, and are dried for later use[238]. A complete cure of uterine cancer by a decoction and uterine injection has been recorded[4].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

None known

Special Uses

Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A water plant requiring a rich soil and a sunny position in still or slowly flowing water that is at least 30cm deep[55, 200, 238]. An over-rich soil, or growing the plant in water that is too deep, inhibits flowering[238]. Prefers a pH between 6 and 7[200]. There are two basic types of plant in this genus (this species is a crawler):- 'crawlers' are species with horizontal roots that often spread freely, with new plants being formed at intervals along the root. These species are useful for naturalising, but they do not flower very freely in the cool summers of Britain[214]. 'clumpers' have vertical roots, they form slowly spreading clumps and produce offsets around the crown. These forms flower much more freely in Britain[214]. A very ornamental plant[1], the sweetly fragrant flowers are 12cm in diameter[222]. The flowers open in the morning, when they are at their most fragrant, and close in the afternoon[245].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Seed - sow as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse in pots submerged under 25mm of water. Prick out into individual pots as soon as the first true leaf appears and grow them on in water in a greenhouse for at least two years before planting them out in late spring. The seed is collected by wrapping the developing seed head in a muslin bag to avoid the seed being lost. Harvest it 10 days after it sinks below the soil surface or as soon as it reappears[200]. Division in May. Each portion must have at least one eye. Submerge in pots in shallow water until established[56].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Nymphaea candida Perennial0.0 4-8  LMHNWa22 
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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

david   Tue Jan 5 2010

I tried one of these leaves, a pinch raw most of it cooked, I was curious because one author says the leaves taste like mud. I found them bland, a little bitter, however the TIP OF MY TONGUE WENT NUMB & TINGLY shortly after. There is a chance the nursery I purchased it from sent me the wrong plant, I think this is unlikely, although more likely than countless authors being wrong about the leaves being edible, I doubt numb and tingly could ever become a fashionable novelty, but you never know. I will have to do the experiment again but not in a hurry.

david   Sun Jan 17 2010

I tried another leaf yesterday, no numbness but the worst diarrhoea I've ever had. May be coincidence, but I wont be trying it again in a hurry. It is the variety 'G B Shaw" according to the supplier, I'll wait til the thing flowers so I can be sure of what I'm dealing with. Bizarre

   Dec 6 2014 12:00AM

Since the above comments I've been eating the leaves routinely, cooked, with no problems at all, I don't know what was going on there. I do think they have consistency a bit like mud or clay (as wild food authors Brill & Dean say) but you get used to it, I tend to use it in things like curry where it's passable flavor is not an issue. This is one of the most reliable & productive crops I've ever grown, like kale, leaves just keep appearing all spring through autumn. I also eat the stems chopped & cooked, as is done with other waterlilies, they're great. It grows really well in a half wine-barrel -David Nicholls

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