(Castalia odorata; Nymphaea odorata of Gray) Water-lily family

Flowers - Pure white or pink tinged, rarely deep pink, solitary,

3 to 8 in. across, deliciously fragrant, floating. Calyx of 4

sepals, green outside; petals of indefinite number, overlapping

in many rows, and gradually passing into an indefinite number of

stamens; outer row of stamens with petaloid filaments and short

anthers, the inner yellow stamens with slender filaments and

elongated anthers; carpels of indefinite number, united into a

compound pistil, with spreading and projecting stigmas. Leaves:

Floating, nearly round, slit at bottom, shining green above,

reddish and more or less hairy below, 4 to 12 in. across,

attached to petiole at center of lower surface. Petioles and

peduncles round and rubber-like, with 4 main air-channels.

Rootstock: (Not true stem), thick, simple or with few branches,

very long.

Preferred Habitat - Still water, ponds, lakes, slow streams.

Flowering Season - June-September.

Distribution - Nova Scotia to Gulf of Mexico, and westward to the


Sumptuous queen of our native aquatic plants, of the royal family

to which the gigantic Victoria regia of Brazil belongs, and all

the lovely rose, lavender, blue, and golden exotic water lilies

in the fountains of our city parks, to her man, beast, and insect

pay grateful homage. In Egypt, India, China, Japan, Persia, and

Asiatic Russia, how many millions have bent their heads in

adoration of her relative the sacred lotus! From its center

Brahma came forth; Buddha, too, whose symbol is the lotus, first

appeared floating on the mystic flower (Nelumbo nelumbo, formerly

Nelumbium speciosum). Happily the lovely pink or white "sacred

bean" or "rose-lily" of the Nile, often cultivated here, has been

successfully naturalized in ponds about Bordentown, New Jersey,

and maybe elsewhere. If he who planteth a tree is greater than he

who taketh a city, that man should be canonized who introduces

the magnificent wild flowers of foreign lands to our area of

Nature's garden.

Now, cultivation of our native water lilies and all their hardy

kin, like charity, begins at home. Their culture in tubs, casks,

or fountains on the lawn, is so very simple a matter, and the

flowers bloom so freely, every garden should have a corner for

aquatic plants. Secure the water-lily roots as early in the

spring as possible, and barely cover them with good rich loam or

muck spread over the bottom of the sunken tub to a depth of six

or eight inches. After it has been filled with water, and

replenished from time to time to make good the loss by

evaporation, the water garden needs no attention until autumn.

Then the tub should be drained, and removed to a cellar, or it

may be covered over with a thick mattress of dry leaves to

protect from hard freezing. In their natural haunts, water lilies

sink to the bottom, where the water is warmest in winter.

Possibly the seed is ripened below the surface for the same

reason. At no time should the crown of the cultivated plant be

lower than two feet below the water. If a number of species are

grown, it is best to plant each kind in a separate basket, sunk

in the shallow tub, to prevent the roots from growing together,

as well as to obtain more effective decoration. Charming results

may be obtained with small outlay of either money or time.

Nothing brings more birds about the house than one of these water

gardens; that serves at once as drinking fountain and bath to our

not over-squeamish feathered neighbors. The number of insects

these destroy, not to mention the joy of their presence, would

alone compensate the householder of economic bent for the cost of

a shallow concrete tank.

Opening some time after six o'clock in the morning, the white

water lily spreads its many-petalled, deliciously fragrant,

golden-centered chalice to welcome the late-flying bees and

flower flies, the chief pollinators. Beetles, "skippers," and

many other creatures on wings alight too. "I have named two

species of bees (Halictus nelumbonis and Prosopis nelumbonis) on

account of their close economic relation to these flowers," says

Professor Robertson, who has captured over two hundred and fifty

species of bees near his home in Carlinville, Illinois, and

described nearly a third of them as new. Linnaeus, no doubt the

first to conceive the pretty idea of making a floral clock, drew

up a list of blossoms whose times of opening and closing marked

the hours on its face; but even Linnaeus failed to understand

that the flight of insects is the mainspring on which flowers

depend to set the mechanism going. In spite of its whiteness and

fragrance, the water lily requires no help from night-flying

insects in getting its pollen transferred; therefore, when the

bees and flies rest from their labors at sundown, it may close

the blinds of its shop, business being ended for the day.

"When doctors disagree, who shall decide?" It is contended by one

group of scientists that the water lily, which shows the plainest

metamorphosis of some sort, has developed its stamens from petals

- just the reverse of Nature's method, other botanists claim. A

perfect flower, we know, may consist of only a stamen and a

pistil, the essential organs, all other parts being desirable,

but of only secondary importance. Gardeners, taking advantage of

a wild flower's natural tendency to develop petals from stamens

and to become "double," are able to produce the magnificent roses

and chrysanthemums of today; and so it would seem that the water

lily, which may be either self-fertilized or cross-fertilized by

pollen-carriers in its present state of development, is looking

to a more ideal condition by increasing its attractiveness to

insects as it increases the number of its petals, and by

economizing pollen in transforming some of the superfluous

stamens into petals.

Scientific speculation, incited by the very fumes of the student

lamp, may weary us in winter, but just as surely is it dispelled

by the fragrance of the lilies in June. Then, floating about in a

birch canoe among the lily-pads, while one envies the very moose

and deer that may feed on fare so dainty and spend their lives

amid scenes of such exquisite beauty, one lets thought also float

as idly as the little clouds high overhead.