Scientific name

Nymphaea L.

Common names




Could be confused with

Nelumbo, Nuphar, Nymphoides

Native distribution


Species commonly cultivated

Almost all species are cultivated, as well as numerous varieties and artificial hybrids.

Nymphaea caerulea (southern Africa)

N. gigantea Hook. (Australia)

N. glandulifera Rodschied (Central and South America)

N. immutabilis (Australia, Asia)

N. lotus L. (tropical Africa)

N. mexicana (Central America)

N. micrantha Guill. & Perr. (Senegal to Camaroon)

N. rudgeana G. Mey. (Central and South America)

N. violacea Lehm. (Papua New Guinea and northern Australia)

Adventive distribution

Various species have been introduced into numerous regions around the world. Nymphaea lotus is introduced into warmer parts of America and Europe, while N. mexicana is introduced in many countries. Nymphaea caerulea is common in eastern Australia.

Weed status

Nymphaea mexicana is considered weedy in some countries due to large seasonal populations choking waterways.


attached rosette plant with submersed, floating, and occasionally emergent leaves

Brief description

Perennial. Stem a slender or stout rhizome, corm, or tuber, usually bearing old leaf scars. Leaves in a basal rosette arising from buried rhizome, submersed, floating, or emergent; petiole smooth, greatly elongate; leaf blade ovate, deeply sagittate to orbicular with deep sinus, venation palmate; margin entire or dentate. Inflorescence a large, solitary flower on a long pedicel, borne above water or floating on surface. Sepals 4 or 5, green; petals numerous, in series, variously colored; stamens numerous. Dispersal by seed or sometimes by daughter plants off rhizome.

Natural habitat

All permanent and temporary waters are suitable to waterlily growth.

Additional comments

A highly distinctive genus with at least 40 species worldwide. Countless artificial hybrids and varieties are cultivated primarily for the pond plant industry, less so for the aquarium industry.