Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Fragrant Water-lily - Nymphaea odorata   Aiton
Members of Nymphaeaceae:
Members of Nymphaea with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 4 » Order Nymphaeales » Family Nymphaeaceae
DistributionStatewide, though of spotty distribution in the western Piedmont and parts of the Mountains. There is a single specimen from 1940 on the Outer Banks at Buxton Woods.

This has a very wide range across the continent, depending on how broad a concept one has of this species. At a minimum, this species ranges across the eastern half of the continent.
AbundanceFrequent to common in most of the Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont. Somewhat more local in the northern Coastal Plain and most of the Piedmont, but can be fairly common in some areas. Infrequent to locally fairly common in the Mountains, though mainly in the southern half of the province.
HabitatThis species is widespread in a variety of still or sluggish waters, being found most often in lakes, ponds, impoundments, and beaver ponds; it is less often found on sluggish rivers and creeks than is Nuphar advena. As this is a popular ornamental plant, some locations in the state could certainly result from local introductions, but as it occurs across the eastern US, determination of which collections are natural versus ones that are not is near impossible.
PhenologyBlooms from June into September, and fruits during this same time period.
IdentificationThis familiar species of lakes and ponds needs little introduction. It has floating leaves that are rounded, with entire or scalloped margins, and reaching about 8-10 inches long and wide, with a deeply notched base. The large white (sometimes pale or medium pink) flowers contain numerous narrow petals, and the flower is often 4-6 inches across when fully in bloom. The stamens are bright yellow, giving a nice contrast to the white petals. The flowers rest on the water surface, as well. Sorrie (2011) states that, aside from several species of Magnolia, this species has the largest flowers in North America. The probably introduced N. mexicana has yellow petals. Weakley (2018) treats this latter species as apparently native in NC, with occurrences plausibly spread northward by waterfowl.
Taxonomic CommentsThis species has such a broad and complex range that, not surprisingly, has a number of subspecies and/or varieties included within it. Weakley (2018) says that only one such subspecies is found in the state, that being the nominate one -- N. odorata ssp. odorata.

Other Common Name(s)American Water-lily, White Water-lily, American White Water-lily
State RankS4 [S5]
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieWhispering Pines, beaver pond on tributary of Little River. 2016. MoorePhoto_natural
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