water lily

1. any of various aquatic plants of the genus Nymphaea, species of which have large, disklike, floating leaves and showy flowers, esp. N. odorata, of America, or N. alba, of Europe. Cf. water lily family.
2. any related plant of the genus Nuphar.
3. a plant of the water lily family.
4. the flower of any such plant.
[1540-50]

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Any of the freshwater plants in eight genera that make up the family Nymphaeaceae, native to temperate and tropical regions.

All are perennial except those in the genus Euryale. Most have rounded, floating, waxy-coated leaves growing atop long stalks that contain many air spaces. Thick, fleshy, creeping underwater stems are buried in the mud. In some species the leaves are also submerged. Showy, solitary, cuplike flowers with numerous spirally arranged petals are borne at or above the water surface on the long stalks. The genus Nymphaea includes the water lilies proper (or water nymphs). The common North American white water lily, pond lily, or toad lily is N. odorata. The lotus of ancient Egyptian art was usually the blue lotus (N. caerulea). The largest water lilies are two species that make up the tropical South American genus Victoria; the Santa Cruz water lily (V. cruziana) has leaves 2–6 ft (60–180 cm) in diameter. Water lilies provide food for fish and wildlife but sometimes cause drainage problems because of their rapid growth. Many varieties have been developed for ornamental use in garden pools and conservatories.

Santa Cruz water lily (Victoria cruziana)

(Top) Gottlieb Hampfler, (bottom) Elliot Levine
Shostal/EB Inc.

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▪ plant family
      any of the species of freshwater plants of the family Nymphaeaceae, comprising eight genera native to the temperate and tropical parts of the world. All members of the family are perennial except for the genus Euryale, an annual or short-lived perennial found only in Asia. Most species of water lilies have rounded, variously notched, floating, waxy-coated leaves on long stalks that contain many air spaces. The stalks arise from thick, fleshy, creeping underwater stems that are buried in the mud. Some water lilies also have submerged leaves.

      The showy, fragrant, solitary flowers are borne at or above the water surface on long stalks that are attached to the underground stems. Each cuplike flower has a spiral arrangement of its numerous petals. The flowers of most species have many stamens (male reproductive structures). Some flowers open only in the morning or in the evening to attract insect pollinators. The fruit is usually nutlike or berrylike. Some fruits ripen underwater until they rupture or decay, and the seeds then float away or sink.

      The genus Nymphaea makes up the water lilies proper, or water nymphs, with 46 species. The common North American white water lily, or pond lily, is Nymphaea odorata. The European white water lily is N. alba. Both species have reddish leaves when young and large fragrant flowers. The leaf blades of N. alba have a deep, narrow notch. Other species of Nymphaea have pink, yellow, red, or blue flowers; many kinds are of hybrid origin. The lotus of ancient Egyptian art was usually the blue lotus (N. caerulea). The Egyptian lotus, N. lotus, has toothed leaves and long stalks that rise above the water's surface to support white flowers that bloom at night and stay open until midday.

      The genus Nuphar, with about 10 species distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, includes the common yellow water lily, cow lily, or spatterdock (Nuphar advena) of eastern North America. The yellow water lily has submerged leaves that are thin and translucent and leathery floating leaves.

 The largest water lilies are those of the tropical South American genus Victoria, comprising two species of giant water lilies. The leaf margins of both the Amazon, or royal, water lily (V. amazonica, formerly V. regia) and the Santa Cruz water lily (V. cruziana) have upturned edges, giving each thickly veined leaf the appearance of a large, shallow pan 60 to 180 centimetres (about 2 to 6 feet) across and accounting for its common name, water platter. The fragrant flowers of Victoria have 50 or more petals and are 18 to 46 centimetres (about 7 to 18 inches) wide. They open white toward evening and shade to pink or reddish two days later before they wither, to be replaced by a large berrylike fruit.

      Water lilies provide food for fish and wildlife but sometimes cause drainage problems because of their rapid growth. Many varieties have been developed for ornamental use in garden pools and conservatories.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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