The Nymphaeales comprise an angiosperm order commonly known as ‘water lilies’. All members of the order are aquatic plants that typically possess floating leaves.

Keywords: aquatic plants; freshwater vegetation; water gardening; water lilies

Figure 1.

Several hundred cultivars of Nymphaea (top) have been featured in water gardens worldwide. The giant leaves of the spectacular Victoria amazonica (bottom) can grow to 2 m in diameter.

Figure 2.

Diagram of relationships among Nymphaeales genera. This evolutionary ‘tree’ was constructed using a combination of morphological and molecular data. The different ‘branch’ lengths indicate relative differences separating the groups (scale shown). Two major groups or ‘clades’ are resolved which correspond to the families Nymphaeaceae and Cabombaceae. The high percentages above branches (‘bootstrap’ values) indicate that different sections of the tree are well supported.


Further Reading

Emboden WA (1978) The sacred narcotic lily of the Nile: Nymphaea caerulea. Economic Botany 32: 395–407.

Friis EM, Pedersen KR and Crane PR (2001) Fossil evidence of water lilies (Nymphaeales) in the early Cretaceous. Nature 410: 357–360.

Les DH and Schneider EL (1995) The Nymphaeales, Alismatidae, and the theory of an aquatic monocotyledon origin. In: Rudall PJ, Cribb PJ, Cutler DF and Humphries CJ (eds) Monocotyledons: Systematics and Evolution, pp. 23–42. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens.

Les DH, Garvin DK and Wimpee CF (1991) Molecular evolutionary history of ancient aquatic angiosperms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 88: 10119–10123.

Les DH, Schneider EL, Padgett DJ et al. (1999) Phylogeny, classification and floral evolution of water lilies (Nymphaeales): a synthesis of non‐molecular, rbcL, matK and 18S rDNA data. Systematic Botany 24: 28–46.

Masters CO (1974) Encyclopedia of the Water‐lily. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications.

Rands RL (1953) The water lily in Maya art: a complex of alleged Asiatic origin. Bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology 151: 75–154.

Russell V (1998) Monet's Water Lilies. Boston: Bulfinch Press, Little, Brown and Co.

Schneider EL and Williamson PS (1993) Nymphaeaceae. In: Kubitzki K, Rohwer JG and Bittrich V (eds) The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants, vol. II: Flowering Plants, Dicotyledons, Magnoliid, Hamamelid and Caryophyllid Families, pp. 486–493. Berlin: Springer Verlag.

Slocum PD, Robinson P and Perry F (1996) Water Gardening: Water Lilies and Lotuses. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

Williamson PS and Schneider EL (1993) Cabombaceae. In: Kubitzki K, Rohwer JG and Bittrich V (eds) The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants, vol. II: FloweringPlants, Dicotyledons, Magnoliid, Hamamelid and Caryophyllid Families, pp. 157–161. Berlin: Springer Verlag.

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Les, Donald H(Feb 2003) Nymphaeales. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003697]