Subgenera of the genus Nymphaea

Growing tropical water lilies from tubers
4 December 2017

The six subgenera of the genus Nymphaea

The genus Nymphaea (water lilies) can be devided into 6 subgenera. The genus Nymphaea has a cosmopolitain distribution, appearing on all continents except Antarctica.

Anecphya – “Day blooming Aussies: large seeded”

The Nymphaea subg. Anecphya Conard (1905) species occur in the (sub)tropical areas of Australia. Lilies in the subgenus Ancephya are day blooming plants characterised by their large overall plant size, stamen count and heat requirements. The pure species in N. sugb. Anecphya may exhibit blue, pink, maroon or bicolour flowers. The pad margins may be sinuate, toothed or entire. Pads of N. subg. Anecphya plants do not exhibit marmeration.

The subgenus Anecphya contains the following species:

  • N. alexii
  • N. atrans
  • N. carpentariae
  • N. georginae
  • N. gigantea
  • N. immutabilis
  • N. jacobsii
  • N. kimberleyensis
  • N. macrosperma

Conard, H.S. 1905 Monograph of the Genus Nymphaea.

Brachyseras – “Tropical day bloomers”

Nymphaea subg. Brachyseras Caspary (1865) contains the tropical day blooming species. Species from this subgenus occur in (sub)tropical areas  of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia. Colours found in the pure species of this subgenus include white, yellow, white-cream, pink, violet and blue.

  • N. ampla
  • N. caerulea
  • N. capensis
  • N. colorata
  • N. divaricata
  • N. elegans
  • N. gracilis
  • N. guineensis
  • N. heudelotii
  • N. malabarica
  • N. manipurensis
  • N. micrantha (Viviparous)
  • N. minuta
  • N. nouchali
  • N. ovalifolia
  • N. pulchella
  • N. stuhlmannii
  • N. sulphurea
  • N. thermarum
  • N. togoensis

Caspary, J.X. 1865. Annales Museum Botanicum Lugduno-Batavum (F.A.W.Miquel) 2: 241–253.
Devi, Sagolsem & Thongam, Biseshwori. (2014). Two new taxa of Nymphaea (Nymphaeaceae) from Manipur, India. Phytotaxa. 188. 112-117

Confluentes – “Day blooming Aussies: small seeded”

Nymphaea subg. Confluentes (sensu Jacobs 2007) is a relatively recently named subgenus. N. subg. Confluentes occurs in the tropical areas of Australasia and differ from the N. subg. Anecphya by their smaller seed size. Also, some species in this subgenus exhibit more stellate flower shapes and more entire to sinuate leaf forms as compared to N. subg. Anecphya.

  • N. elleniae
  • N. hastifolia
  • N. lukei
  • N. noelae
  • N. ondinea
  • N. vaporalis
  • N. violacea

Löhne, C, 2008, Nuclear and plastid DNA sequences reveal complex reticulate patterns in Australian water-lilies (Nymphaea subgenus Anecphya, Nymphaeaceae)

Hydrocallis – “Tropical night bloomers”

The Nymphaea subgenus Hydrocallis are tropical night blooming water lilies from the Americas. The flowers open only shortly, sometimes only 2 hours in the middle of the night or early morning. This is much shorter than the night blooming species of Nymphaea Subgenus Lotos. In contrast to Subgenus Lotos, the flowers of N. subgenus Hydrocallis lilies float on the water or are very close to the water surface. (Slocum, 2005). Some species in this subgenus exhibit viviparity.

  • N. amazonum
  • N. belophylla
  • N. conardii
  • N. gardneriana
  • N. glandulifera
  • N. jamesoniana
  • N. lasiophylla (Viviparous)
  • N. lingulata
  • N. novogranatensis
  • N. oxypetala
  • N. potamophila
  • N. prolifera (Viviparous)
  • N. rudgeana
  • N. tenerinervia

Perry D. Slocum, 2005, Water lilies and Lotuses
John H. Wiersema, 1987, A monograph of Nymphaea Subgenus Hydrocallis (Nymphaeacae)

Lotos – “Tropical night bloomers”

Nymphaea Subgenus Lotos  Conard (1905) contains the tropical night blooming species of Nymphaea. The species can be found in the tropics of Africa, the Philippines and hot springs in Romania and Hungary. The flowers of Nymphaea subg. Lotos species open around dusk and close late in the morning for three or four consecutive days. The flowers are held high (15-30cm or 6-12 inches) above the water.

  • N. lotus
  • N. petersiana
  • N. pubescens
  • N. rubra

Perry D. Slocum, 2005, Water lilies and Lotuses

Nymphaea – “Hardies”

The Nymphaea Subgenus Nymphaea is divided into two sectios, Nymphaea subg. Nymphaea sect. Nymphaea and Nymphaea subg. Nymphaea sect. Xanthantha. This subgenus is often referred to as “the hardies”, since water lily species from this subgenus are more tolerant of cold temperatures than any of the other subgenus. Water lilies in the Nymphaea subgenus are found in the temperate regions of Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

Nymphaea subgenus Nymphaea sect. Nymphaea

  • N. alba
  • N. leibergii
  • N. loriana
  • N. odorata
  • N. pygmaea
  • N. tetragona

Nymphaea subgenus Nymphaea sect. Xanthantha

  • N. mexicana

Perry D. Slocum, 2005, Water lilies and Lotuses




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