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Water Lilies

Species Of Water Lilies, Ecological And Economic Importance

The water lily, yellow water lily, lotus, and several other aquatic plants are about 60 species of aquatic herbs that make up the family Nymphaeaceae. These plants occur in shallow, fresh waterbodies from the boreal to the tropical zones. The usual habitats of these plants are ponds and shallow water around lake edges, as well as slowly-flowing pools and stagnant backwaters in streams and rivers.

Water lilies are perennial, herbaceous plants. Their green foliage dies back each year at the end of the growing season, but the plant perennates itself by issuing new growth from a long-lived rhizome occurring in the surface sediment. The foliage of most species in the family is comprised of simple, glossy, dark-green leaves, which float on the water surface. The solitary, perfect (or bisexual) flowers are held just above the water surface, and are large and showy, with numerous petals and a strong fragrance, making them highly attractive to pollinating insects. In most species, the flowers open at dawn, and close at dusk for the night.

On breezy days, the leaves and flowers of water lilies appear to dance lightly on the water surface. This superficial aesthetic led to the choosing of the family name of these plants (Nymphaeaceae) by the famous Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), who likened the water lilies to frolicking nymphs.


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