(Last Updated on : 18/12/2013)
Water Lily is represented by about fifty species in the world; the best examples in India are the species of genus Nymphaea well known in Greek, Roman and Indian mythology
. IN ancient Indian texts various species are referred to as Kumud, Kumudini and Nalini. Etymologically, the term Nymphaea owes its origin to the nature-goddess Nympha. The Water Lily flowers are very beautiful have a pleasant fragrance which lasts for a few days. Some of the flowers open at the daytime while close at night and some the vice versa. Most of them get pollinated by beetles.
The Fragrant Water Lily or Nymphae odorata possesses a very different pollination strategy. The very day when the flower blooms, the pollen is not released, and instead of that the centre of the flower is filled by a fluid, entirely encompassing the female parts. If any insect visits the flower, the petals are so designed that the insect falls into the fluid. In case the insect which falls on the fluid is covered in pollen, then the pollen carried by the insect gets dissolved in the fluid and the flower is fertilized. And the day after, no fluid is created and instead of it, pollen is released. It should be noted that the insect which falls into the fluid of the flower comes out unharmed; however there are some which get trapped and drown.
After some days of pollination of the Water Lily flower, the stem of the flower tightens in a spiralling spring in order to get the flower head underwater. Under the water the fruit is developed into a spongy berry having several seeds enclosed in arils. When the fruit is ripe, about twenty thousand seeds are released from it. After being released, young seeds float on the water surface since they contain air pockets. Then these seeds are dispersed with the help of water currents or sometimes by water birds which eat them. When these seeds get waterlogged, they automatically sink down to reach the base where they germinate in the mud. The water lilies also spread with the help of sprouting from the creeping rhizomes.
The Nymphaeas are perennial aquatic herbs with floating orbicular leaf-blades and flowers. Their fruit is spongy, with several seeds enclosed in a sac-like aril. Another member of the same family growing in shallow pools is the densely prickly aquatic herb Foxnut or Makhana (Euryale ferox). The circular leaf-blades are borne on heavily armed petioles. The undersurface of the leaf is also armed as in the Giant Water-Lily of the Amazon (Victoria amazonica) cultivated in India. The latter has large circular plate-shaped leaves, up to two metres in diameter, with edges up-turned all round to prevent flooding; they can support the weight of a baby. The Water Showflake (Nymphoides indicum) is often mistaken for a water-lily but in fact it is not a member of the Nymphaea family but belongs to the Gentian group. The leaves of the Water Lily shade the water and thus keep it cool and allow for more amount of dissolved oxygen. The plant also acts as suitable hiding places for various minute aquatic creatures, and in turn it attracts predators like Bitterns.