The water lily (Nymphaea odorata), an aquatic pond plant, floats on the surface of the water and produces fragrant blossoms. Native to the eastern United States, water lilies have naturalized in most states due to their aggressive, invasive nature. A popular private pond plant, the water lily adds beauty to the water and helps to shelter fish.
A perennial, the water lily grows best in water up to 8 feet deep. The plant grows from creeping rhizomes that flourish in the mud bottom of the lake or pond. The rhizomes produce long stems that reach toward the water's surface. Large, flat, oval leaves float across the water's surface. The leaves often measure up to 12 inches across.
Tiny veins intersect the leaf's surface. The tiny veins are dotted with small air pores. Through the air pores, the plant breathes. The majority of plants breathe on the underside of their leaves, but the water lily must breathe only on the top half of the leaf because the under half floats on the water's surface.
An individual flower stalk grows from the root rhizomes and reaches upward toward the water's surface. The water lily plant produces fragrant flowers in shades of pink, white and yellow. Each blossom lasts three to four days and measures up to 6 inches across.
Each flower has both male and female reproductive organs, but they require another flower for pollination to occur and are unable to self pollinate. The flower forms a liquid filled cup, which readily accepts pollen from insects who enter the cup's moist depth. The moisture within the recess of the cup washes the pollen from the insect. Pollination occurs only during the daylight when the flower is open. At night the flower closes up, according to the State of Washington Department of Ecology. On the third day of the flower's life the pollen cup dries up and pollen is released from the male reproductive organs until the flower dies.
After the lily flower dies, the plant curls its flower stalk under the water's surface so the seeds can begin to form. It takes several weeks for the seeds to mature. Upon maturity, the plant releases the seeds into the water. Flowering and seed production begins in the late spring and continues until fall.