Water Lilies a Fascinating Group of Plants

The flask shaped fruits of the yellow water lily

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Introducing water-lilies a fascinating group of plants

Waterlilies are known to be among the oldest living relatives of the first flowering plants to have appeared on earth. The seeds referred to as nut-lets by botanists, are part of the fruit {seed case or capsule} which covered by a hard woody coating, which is for the greater part impenetrable to water.

When the seeds eventually fall from the parent plants they sink to the bottom of the water where they can remain dormant for hundreds of years. There is on record of seeds being being retrieved from a peat bog in Machuria which were dated by scientists as being over a thousand years old. They were exposed to water and to the amazement of the scientists were still capable of germination.

There is a fascinating association between water lilies and other aquatic animals such as the beaver. I will give a basic explanation of this fact. because this group of plants invade areas of water quite quickly and because their foliage is so large the seeds below them are deprived of sunlight, thus if they did germinate they would struggle to survive.

However, the tubers that grow on the roots are a great source of food for the beaver and it is the tubers from which the stems grow that sustains the plants needs. the beavers move in and feed on these tubers with great delight. Unmolested they will feed until all the tubers are wiped out, thus the green foliage deprived of their food source also disappears.

Beaver

beavers and other aquatic animals have a strong association with water lilies.
beavers and other aquatic animals have a strong association with water lilies. | Source

Under water growth

Should the seeds at the bottom of the water body begin to germinate , they too would be eaten by the beavers. It is only when these aquatic grazers have left, in search of another good supply of lily foliage that the seeds eventually germinate.

The quick growth of the under ground shoots is truly amazing. Within twenty four hours of germination they can double their size to form a long spike. Studies have revealed that if only one seed out of the countless number lying at the bottom of their watery habitat germinates, it is very probable it would be capable of colonizing the wetland within a relatively short period of time. The growth of the green parts is almost unstoppable. That it why it is such a survivor in wetland areas, and that is why the beavers and their ilk are so important in keeping them under control. This is part of nature's economy.


Characteristics of the water lily tribe.

Water lilies belong to the Order Nymphaeales and the Family Nymphaeaceae.

The main characteristics are --They are all herbacious plants, growing from a prostrate stem in quiet waters. The leaves are of a thick substance, either heart shaped or of a peltate form, attached to the leaf stalk by the center. The young leaves are usually rolled inwards. When fully grown the lie perfectly flat on the surface, or rise above it.

the flowers are composed of four or five sepals, and, numerous petals some of which pass gradually into stamens. Both petals and stamens are inserted into large fleshy disc which surrounds the ovary, except in Nelumbian { of the order proteales} such as the Indian Lotus, when they are situated in several rows at the base of the disk.

The filaments of the stamens are of a petal like form, the anthers burst inwardly by a double longitudinal cleft. the ovary contains many cells and numerous seeds, surmounted by the radiating stigmas.

In Nelumbium the ovary is very large, and rises high in the center of the flower, having on its summit several short styles and simple stigmas. The nuts containing one rarely two seeds each, lie half buried in the hollow cells, until they are ripe, when they become loose, and fall out. The seeds of Nymphea and Euryale are enveloped in an arillus.

The radiating stigmas on the summit of the enlarged seed vessel have a narcotic milky juice, have connected links with the poppy tribe of plants. The dilated discs of some kinds of peony resembles partly that of the water lilies, thus forming a link with the water crowfoot tribe.

Illustration

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A look at the species

Nymphaea alba--is one of the most beautiful of British water plants, the flowers rising above the water among the flat green leaves, open in the morning and closes in the afternoon. the roots or creeping stems were once used for dying grey in Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland. They were considered useful in tanning leather.

Nuphar luteum also grows in America, as well as many other European countries. The stems contain a great deal of starch, and if well washed was considered to be a wholesome food. The seeds were regarded as being edible and were eaten by poor peasants in times of food shortages.

Nelumbium speciosum is the once celebrated lotus of Egypt, which was considered sacred, and employed as an emblematical ornament in the paintings of their temples. It was also found in the ancient monuments of India, where it abounds in almost every part of the country, covering the waters with its magnificent flowers and large leaves on which aquatic birds walk.

The long stalks were cooked and eaten in Japan. The roots and seeds are esteemed as food in China being eaten fresh in the summer and preserved in salt and vinegar for winter use.

Lotus flower

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Some old species

Nymphaea { Classical Greeks have dedicated this genus to the water nymphs} It is a genus of handsome aquatics with fleshy or tuberous surfaces. The variety rubra has red or rose tinted flowers. The species is a native to the old world tropics and required stove treatment.

Nymphaea odorata {sweet scented} is very similar in proportions colour and appearance to N. alba, yet quite distinct. It opens in the morning and exhales a delicious perfume, but closes its rose tinged patals soon after midday. It is an hardy species.

N.scutifolia { meaning shield leaved, is a blue fragrant flowered species with pelate toothed leaves, smooth on both sides. It derives from the Cape of Goodhope and was introduced as a stove species to England in 1792.

N. Stellata, meaning starry the flowers, is Blue, fragrant similar to the pervious species, butdistinguished by its smaller size and few petals. There were several varieties of this species; one 'veriscolor' opened with white flowers which afterwards change to red.

N. zanzibarensis , meaning of Zansibar, was the largest and most handsome of all the Stellata group having flowers nine inches in diameter and coloured rich blue purple. It was introduced to Kew gardens by Mr. John Kirk in 1850. A number of beautiful hybrids. all of them hardy, was , in the 1800's, raised by a French nurseryman, Marliac, among them being coloured yellow, pink, and crimson flowered sorts. These became popular wherever water lilies grew. the best of them 'igenca' robinsonia, carnen, rosea, chromalilla and laydekeri.

The cultivation tips were conveyed as follows. The stove species had to be potted, or planted in tubs, the hardy sorts placed in whicker baskets, and both should be sunk until the crowns were about a foot below the surface of the water. The soil should be a compost of turfy loam and sharp sand with a mixture of well rotted manure. The hardy species soon sent out their roots through the basket and into the bottom of the lake or pond, thereafter needing little attention.

The stove species {those requiring heat and light} required a water temperature to be maintained at a temperature of around 70 degrees F., though could be reduced to 60 degrees F when the leaves had ripened. the tubers of the tropical kinds had to be re-potted in February.

If it was not convenient to keep them in water all winter, they were taken from the soil in November and kept in moist sand in a warm house. Propagation was affected by dividing the root stock, and by sowing seed in the spring. The seed pot was submerged in the stove tank where germination took place rapidly, and the young plants came on so well that they would probably flower the same year.


Nymphaea pubescens

The beautiful Indian Red Water lily
The beautiful Indian Red Water lily | Source

Nelumbiums

Nelumbium are a genus of aquatics, native of the southern parts of North America. They are also distributed through Asia and found in Australia. they have an horizontal root stock from which springs the large pelate leaves, at first floating but afterwards borne clear above the surface by the lengthening of the long cylindrical leaf stalks. The flowers are also large and raised on long stalks. The petals occur in several series, the stamens are also very numerous.

The receptacle is greatly extended and expands into a top-shape with hollow summit in which the carpels are embedded, and to whose base the petals and stamens are attached.

White water lily

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Cultivation tips for Nelumbiums

Those particular cultivation tips given for Nymphaeae above also apply for the cultivation of Nelumbiums, so far as the soil and the method of propagation is concerned. They require bright sunshine and a deep rich soil and, when grown under glass, a stove temperature.

In the United States and Japan, where the summers are long and hot, they were grown in tubs, tanks and ponds in the open air. they were also grown in the south of England in out door tanks, over which frames were placed, and in the spring the frames could be moved frost then the glass partly lifted and finally taken away when all danger of frost had past. propagation was affected by division of the rhizomes and seeds.

American Lotus

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Nymphaea caerula

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Nelumbium lutea

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Comments 7 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Greg Hume , please accept my apologies for that error. As you can see I have now altered the dedication to your work. It was a genuine mistake and one I was glad to rectify. Great picture by the way. Best wishes to you.


Greg Hume 3 years ago

Hi Dal,

The lotus flower image is not public domain, it is creative commons attribution share alike 3.0 unported license.

Here is the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WhiteLotus.jpg

Regards,

Greg Hume


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Peggy W, Hi Peggy thank you for visiting and leaving your welcomed comments. Nature is wonderful with her economy. Best wishes to you.

Jill of all trades, good to see you here and thank you for your appreciated comments. I have read your hub, which as usual is excellent. Best wishes to you.

aviannavoice, Hi Deb they are a wonderful plants in an amazing world. Best wishes to you.

Livinsta, thank you too, for visiting and for your kind comments. Best wishes to you.


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom

The water lily is one of my favourite plants. Their flowers are pretty and this hub tells me more about the life cycle of these plants. I found this very interesting.

Voted up and sharing!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Such picturesque and delicately beautiful plants that remind me of a netherland. Imagine only the effect of the entire picture at large, which you have described. It is truly a world of pure wonder.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 3 years ago from Philippines

I love water lilies! I wish I can have a pond so I could grow them. However I do not have enough space.

This is simply so informative my friend!

By the way, I mentioned the lotus in my The Color Purple hub. Here is the link in case you are interested. http://hubpages.com/art/The-Color-Purple-What-It-M...


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

I have never had a pond where I would have been tempted to grow water lilies but I admire them when I see them. This was a very interesting hub to read. Voted that as well as up and useful. Will share so that others can learn more about these plants. I had no idea that the seeds could germinate after lying dormant for hundreds of years or that so many parts of the plant were edible.

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