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Interesting Facts on Water Lilies

Updated February 21, 2017

The beautiful waterlily is known botanically as Nymphaea. There are around 50 Nymphaea species worldwide. In general the plants are aquatic and can be perennial or annual. The rounded leaves float on the water atop tall stalks. Many petalled flowers bloom in shades of white, yellow, blue or pink.

An Ancient Name

Evidence of the earliest waterlilies dates back between 115 to 125 million years.The plants were sacred to the ancient Egyptians. They were also important to the ancient Greeks, and the family and genus name comes from "nympha" the Greek word for a water nymph.

Waterlilies and Art

Perhaps the most famous artist to portray waterlilies on canvas was Claude Monet (1840-1926), who maintained an extensive water garden at his home in Giverney, France. He made the waterlily paintings near the end of his career and at the time of his death, they were still in his studio.

Medicinal Use

Parts of some waterlily species, especially the roots and leaves, have been used medicinally over the centuries. Mrs. M. Grieve, writing in the 1931 "Modern Herbal," describes the use of the powdered root in the treatment of digestive ailments. Poultices of the leaves and roots were applied externally for boils and skin conditions.

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About the Author

Elisabeth Ginsburg, a writer with over 20 years' experience, earned an M.A. from Northwestern University and has done advanced study in horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden. Her work has been published in the "New York Times," "Christian Science Monitor," "Horticulture Magazine" and other national and regional publications.