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This showy member of the water lily family (Nymphaeaceae) is a beautiful plant to admire as you paddle a canoe around a lake or down a sluggish stream. The large white flowers are often fragrant, hence the specific epithet “odorata”. “Nymphaea” derives from the attractive flowers, which are suggestive of the mythological Greek nymphs, beautiful supernatural female beings thought to inhabit glades and springs.
The white water lily is recognized by its large, floating, circular leaves and large, white flowers. The waxy leaves are up to 8 inches across with a narrow v-shaped cleft where the stem attaches. The underside of the leaf is green or reddish-purple in color. The flower can be up to 5 inches wide with numerous white petals and is attached to a separate stem from the leaf. Forty or more yellow stamens surround a central ovary and disk-shaped stigma.