White waterlily

Nymphaea alba
Water lilies (Nymphaeaceae)


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Nymphaea alba, also known as the European white water lily, white water rose or white nenuphar, is an aquatic flowering plant of the family Nymphaeaceae. It is native to North Africa, temperate Asia, Europe and Tropical Asia (India).

Description

It grows in water that is 30–150 cm (12–59 in) deep and likes large ponds and lakes.

The leaves can be up to 30 cm (12 in) in diameter and take up a spread of 150 cm (59 in) per plant. The flowers are white and they have many small stamens inside.

Taxonomy

It was first published and described by Carl Linnaeus in his book 'Species Plantarum', on page 510 in 1753.

The red variety (Nymphaea alba f. rosea) is cultivated from lake Fagertärn ("Fair tarn") in the forest of Tiveden, Sweden, where they were discovered in the early 19th century. The discovery led to a large-scale exploitation which nearly made it extinct in the wild before it was protected.

Nymphaea candida J. Presl is sometimes considered a subspecies of N. alba (N. alba L. subsp. candida (J. Presl) Korsh.).

Distribution and habitat

They are found all over Europe and in parts of North Africa and the Middle East in fresh water. In Africa, it is found in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. In temperate Asia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Siberia, Iran, Iraq, Israel and Turkey. It is found in tropical Asia, within the Indian provinces of Jammu and Kashmir. Lastly, within Europe, it is found in Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russian Federation, Ukraine Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, France, Portugal and Spain.

Phytochemistry

It contains the active alkaloids nupharine and nymphaeine, and is a sedative and an aphrodisiac/anaphrodisiac depending on sources. Although roots and stalks are used in traditional herbal medicine along with the flower, the petals and other flower parts are the most potent. Alcohol can be used to extract the active alkaloids, and it also boosts the sedative effects. The root of the plant was used by monks and nuns for hundreds of years as an anaphrodisiac, being crushed and mixed with wine. In the earliest printed medical textbooks, authors maintained this use, though warning against consuming large and frequent doses.

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