floral Genome Project Education Site  


Water lily, spatterdock, yellow pondlily

Scientific name:
Nuphar avdenar

Nuphar advena, water lily, an aquatic herb found in ponds, along slow moving streams, and similar slow moving water bodies in eastern North America and Cuba.  Its broad leaves are ovate to heart-shaped and typically float just below the surface of the water.  “Half-opened” yellow flowers stand on thick stems at or above the water surface.  Flowers are complete with sepals, petals, stamens and carpels. (Skinner, 2006; Wiersema & Hellquist, 1997, 2000).

Discussion remains concerning placement of the water lily family (Nymphaeaceae) in an evolutionary tree of flowering plants. Older analyses assert that water lilies are the most “primative” lineage, but molecular analyses have shown that Amborella is more "primative," in that it appears that its family diverged from the evoltionary tree earlier than the water lily family. (Soltis et al., 1999; 2000, 2002; Savolainen et al., 2000; Qiu et al., 1999; Parkinson et al., 1999; Matthews and Donoghue, 1999; Zanis et al., 2005). In scientific debate, researchers look for multiple lines of evidence to support hypotheses.  Botanists might include data on morphology (plant structure), fossil evidence, DNA similarity, or floral development.  If there is apparent conflict in research results, research continues until contrary hypotheses can be reasonably explained by the data. Part of the current debate stems from whether flowers with an indefinite number of parts, rather than a finite number, are more primitive (Zanis et al., in press).

Humans have traditionally utilized this species.  Roots are cooked and eaten as greens or dried and ground into a powder for use as a thickening agent or flour.  There are also reports of its use as an herbal astringent, to treat diarrhea, reduce swelling, and arrest bleeding. (Plants for a Future, 2005)

Author: Heather Fara, University of Florida. Send comments or corrections


water lily map

Map: Red area indicates the native range of Nuphar advena. The reange include eastern America and Cuba. Map created by Heather Fara, University of Florida.

water dhankflower anise

Photos: (a) Leaves by Virginia Kline, University of Wisconsin-Madison. (b) Flower by David G. Smith, Delaware Wildflowers www.delawarewildflowers.org.


Mathews & Donoghue (1999) The root of angiosperm phylogeny inferred from duplicate phytochrome genes science 286(5441): 947 - 950.

Parkinson, et al. (1999) Multigene analyses identify the three earliest lineages of extant flowering plants. Current Biology 9:1485–1488.

Plants for a Future (2005) Nuphar advena. Nov 23, 2005.

Qiu, et al. (2000) Phylogeny of basal angiosperms: analyses of five genes from three genomes. International Journal of Plant Sciences, volume 161: S3–S27

Skinner (2006) The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5. National Plant Data Center, USDA, NRCS Baton Rouge, LA. Version 16 Dec 2005.

Soltis, et. al. (1999) Angiosperm phylogeny inferred from multiple genes as a tool for comparative biology. Nature 402:402–404.

Soltis, et al. (2000) Angiosperm phylogeny inferred from 18S rDNA, rbcL, and atpB sequences. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 133:381–461.

Soltis, et al. (2002) Phylogeny of seed plants based on evidence from 8 genes. American Journal of Botany 89: 1670-1681.

Wiersema & Hellquist (1997) Vol 3, Flora of North America

Wiersema & Hellquist (2000) Vol 1, Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Northeastern North America.



University of FloridaPenn StateCornell UniversitySupported by NSF