Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Nymphaea Alba

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch
Nymphaea alba flower (08/06/2011, Cambridge)

Nymphaea alba flower (08/06/2011, Cambridge)

Position: Flourishes in full sun.

Soil: Submerged.

Flowering period:Summer.

Eventual Height: 10cm above water level

Eventual Spread: 2.5m

Hardiness: USDA Zone 4a-11a

Family: Nymphaeaceae

Nymphaea alba is a deciduous perennial with an aquatic, floating habit. Its foliage is dark green glossy leaves can be up to 30 cm across and its flowers are semi-double pure white and cup shaped. It grows in water 30-150cm deep and prefers still to slow moving water in a large pond or lake.

Nymphaea alba leaf (08/06/2011, Cambridge)

Nymphaea alba leaf (08/06/2011, Cambridge)

N. alba or the White Water Lily is native to most of Europe including England. The plant contain active  alkaloids nymphaeine which is a sedative and aphrodisiac. Traditionally the roots were crushed and mixed with wine and consumed by nuns and monks.

Nymphaea is derived from Greek mythology where nymphs were minor deities  associated with specific locations, including springs or small bodies of water. Alba being derived from the Latin meaning ‘white’ or ‘pale’ .

The Landscape architect may find this plant useful as in water planting schemes within large bodies of still/ slow moving water. This plant will also help to reduce nitrogen levels in water bodies.

Nymphaea alba (08/06/2011, Cambridge)

Nymphaea alba (08/06/2011, Cambridge)

This plant will require a soil submerged in undisturbed water and will tolerate acid, neutral or alkaline pH levels, in loam or clay based soils in a sheltered or exposed location with a south or west facing aspect.

Ecologically this plant will attract water boatmen, dragonflies, damson flies and will provide cover for water dwelling animals such as frogs, newts, Great Crested Newt and water snails.

Maintenance: Flowers may be deadheaded to prolong the flowering period and yellow leaves may be removed to facilitate new growth.


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