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Botany for Gardeners: Taxonomy of Dicots-Identifying the Water Lily Family (Nymphaeaceae)

pink-water-lilyKnown from ancient Egyptian times, members of the water lily family, Nymphaceae, were made famous by Claude Monet’s series of water lily paintings and have become a water garden favorite. All are herbaceous, perennial, and live in freshwater but some are tropical while others live in temperate climates. Those growing in temperate climates are generally smaller and day blooming while those from tropical climate are larger and day and night blooming. World wide there are about 68 species in 7 genera, of which 4 genera are in North America. Some botanists include the lotus (Nelumbo) in the Nymphaeaceae while others put it in its own family, Nelumbonaceae.

The outstanding characteristics of the water lily amily are:

Aquatic habitat;water lily leaves float on the surface of the water but are attached by a long petiole to a rhizome lying in soil of the pond’s bottom

Showy flowers; Flowers float on the surface of the water or project several inches above the water’s surface


Other characteristics of importance include:

The solitary flowers are radially symmetrical and have three to numerous petals and three to twelve sepals.
The ovary is superior and consists of three or more separate or united carpels.



Botany for Gardeners Pointer

Recommended Reading:

From Seed to Plant
Trees: Their Natural History
Oh Say Can You Seed?