Water lily leaves float on the surface of still waters and are flat and circular shaped. This has earned them the name lily pad. Water lilies come in various sizes from less than an inch in diameter to the huge Amazon water lilies that are several feet wide and can support the weight of a person standing on them. Most of the larger sized water lilies come from tropical regions where the sun light is more intense than northern and southern latitudes, allowing them to grow to large sizes.
The giant Victoria lily is the largest of all water lilies. The round leaves can reach up to 6 feet in diameter and be 3 to 8 inches tall. The edges of the leaves are turned upward creating a bowl effect to help it float and to prevent water from covering the leaf preventing atmospheric gas exchange. The top of the leaves are smooth and pale green. The undersides of the leaves are purple and covered with thorns. The leaves are so large that they can support the weight of a human. Flowers have been described as the size of a volleyball and open at night and smell like ripe pineapples. They slowly fade from white to pink then die after two days.
Victoria lilies are native to the Amazon basin and require tropical temperatures to survive. This makes them only suitable for warm weather climates and medium to large greenhouse ponds.
The gorgon plant, scientific name Euryale ferox, is a water lily with flat leaves that are about 4 to 5 feet in diameter. They are dark green and covered with spikes on both the top and the bottom and have purple to red veins radiating from the center of the leaf. They are native to the tropical climate of India where the seeds are ground into flour and used as food. The flowers are about 2 inches in diameter with an outer ring of white petals and an inner ring of purple petals. The outside of the sepals are also covered with thorns.
Giant Water Lily
The giant water lily, scientific name Nymphaea gigantea, is native to the waters of eastern Australia. It has flat, light green floating leaves up to 30 inches in diameter with toothed edges and a split half way into the leaf where the stem attaches. The flowers bloom during the day and are about 10 inches in diameter and are blue in color. The root is a tuber that grows in deep mud. All parts of the plant are edible including the tuber, stems, leaves and seeds, which are ground and used as flour.