Nymphaea odorata is a perennial, floating-leaved aquatic herb; colonial from a rhizome rooted in mud.
Leaves alternate, leaf stalks with 4 large air-filled passages; blade floating, almost circular, 10-30 cm diameter, often purple or red below, base sharply lobed, sinus narrow, with straight sides.
Flowers white, fragrant, 7-20 cm wide; petals 17-25, 3-10 cm long, narrowly elliptic to oblong or spatula-shaped, arising from ovary; sepals 4, as long as petals, green to purplish; stamens 40-100, outer stamens becoming inner petals; stigmantic disk with 10-25 rays; flower stalks with 4 air-filled passages; open in morning closing by noon or early afternoon, insect pollinated; flowers open for three days, stigma is receptive first day, fluid in depressed top of the stigma attracts insects that fall in and deposit pollen; stigma is unreceptive on second and third days when pollen is shed, after day three the flower submerges and fruit matures underwater (Schneider and Chaney 1981); blooms and fruits June-Sept.
Fruit greenish, 2-3 cm, rounded, top depressed (Radford et al. 1968), enclosed by sepals; seeds numerous, 0.2-0.4 cm long.
Wetland status: OBL.
Frequency in NYC: Infrequent.
Habitat: Still water to ca 1 m deep. Generally in good quality, low nutrient, acid water. Seeds and roots eaten by ducks, plants eaten by muskrats (Martin et al. 1951).