Nuphar is genus of aquatic plants in the family Nymphaeaceae, with a
temperate to subarctic
Northern Hemisphere distribution. Common names
include water-lily (Eurasian species; shared with many other genera in
the same family), pond-lily, alligator-bonnet or bonnet lily, and
spatterdock (North American species).
5 Use as medicine, food, and otherwise
The etymology of the word is: medieval Latin nuphar, from medieval
Latin nenuphar, thence from Arabic nīnūfar, thence from Persian
nīlūfar, thence from
Sanskrit nīlōtpala = blue lotus flower.
For botanical gender, the name is treated as feminine.
Nuphar subintegerrima Makino attended by hover fly. Note the
Nuphar sagittifolia (Walter) Pursh, leaves sagittate
Unripe fruit of
The genus is closely related to Nymphaea.
Nuphar differs in that its
petals are much smaller than its 4-6 bright yellow-coloured sepals,
whereas in Nymphaea, the petals are much larger than the sepals. The
genera also differ in the maturation of their fruit; while maturing,
Nuphar fruit remain above water level on their scapes, whereas fruit
Nymphaea sink below water level immediately after their flowers
close, and there they mature. In both genera the leaves float and have
a radial notch from the circumference to the point of attachment of
the petiole. Depending on the species, the leaves of most species
range from cordate to practically circular with the petiole attached
in the middle, giving a peltate appearance. Some however, have
modified versions of that leaf morphology; for example the leaves of
Nuphar sagittifolia have leaves of an elongated sagittate form.
The number of species in the genus is still under review. Until
the mid-20th century, some botanists treated the genus as just a
single variable species (for which the European name N. lutea has
priority), while some other authorities accepted about a dozen
more species on the basis of traditional taxonomic standards.
Recent molecular work has shown that there are substantial differences
between the Eurasian species (sect. Nuphar) and American species
(sect. Astylus), except for North American N. microphylla which is
clusters with the Eurasian species. Molecular taxonomy has shown
conclusively that recognition of so few species is out of the
question, and forced an increased number of recognised species; some
sources list about seventy. The
Kew Gardens plant list includes
over twenty accepted species, subspecies and varieties; it also has a
similar number as yet unresolved, together with over twenty
Nuphar Section Astylus
Nuphar advena (Aiton) W.T.Aiton –Spatterdock
Nuphar carlquistii DeVore, Taylor, & Pigg
Nuphar polysepala Engelm.
Nuphar sagittifolia (Walter) Pursh
Nuphar variegata Engelm. ex Durand – Variegated pond-lily
Nuphar Section Nuphar
Nuphar japonica DC.
Nuphar lutea (L.) Sm. – Yellow water-lily (type species)
Nuphar microphylla 
Nuphar pumila (Timm) DC. – Least water-lily
There also are several interspecific hybrids.
Nuphar species occur in ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers, growing
in water up to 5 metres deep; different species are variously
adaptated either to nutrient-rich waters (e.g.
Nuphar lutea) or
nutrient-poor waters (e.g.
Wetland soils are hypoxic, and this genus is known to be capable of
temporary growth even in the absence of oxygen. Also there can be
mass flow of oxygen-containing air, entering by means of the young
leaves, passing through the rhizome, and exiting through the older
leaves. Both of these physiological adaptations to flooding are
considered typical of many wetland and aquatic plants.
Like many other vigorously-growing members of the Nymphaeaceae, some
Nuphar tend to cover the water surface completely, blocking
out the light and thereby killing both submerged plants and less
competitive surface-growing aquatics. They also produce alkaloids that
have experimentally been shown to be allelopathic, though it is not
clear how relevant the compounds may be in the wild.
Birds such as some species of ducks eat
Nuphar seeds, and mammals such
as beaver and coypu eat the roots of at least some species. Deer eat
flowers and young leaves.
Use as medicine, food, and otherwise
Nuphar species are less generally useful as food or medicine than
various species in the related water lily genus Nymphaea. Claims of
the edibility or otherwise of the plant have varied wildly, which
might in some cases have reflected errors and confusion, but in the
light of the recognition of an increased number of species, the
confusion might largely be because hitherto unrecognised species
differ in their attributes.
However, some species have been used by indigenous peoples, and the
leaves are grazed by deer and other animals. Young shoots and
leaves sometimes were cooked but might be too bitter to eat. Whether
the roots may be eaten, as is widely reported, is open to doubt; some
sources claim that they are too bitter, too full of tannin, or simply
too poisonous to eat unsoaked, except when treated for so long that
they are not viable as a famine food. All sources however, agree that
ripe seeds may be popped or variously used in cookery. They then are
pleasant and nutritious, but require a lot of work to harvest and
strip from the fruit capsule. To some extent this may be circumvented
rotting the fruit under water for three weeks or more, after which
removing the seeds is easier. The rotting material however, is very
unpleasant to deal with. The flower petals are said to be used in
making tea, but it is not clear whether that refers to the petals
proper, or to the larger and more conspicuous sepals. The leaves of
some species are large enough to be of use in wrapping food, for
example in cooking.
Alkaloids in the genus include nupharolutine, nuphamine and
nupharidine. The presence of such compounds could explain some of
the medicinal uses
There has been growing interest in
Nuphar alkaloids, their biological
and pharmacological significance and their synthesis in recent
decades. It has been speculated that these and other bioactive
compounds might be related to some of the folk-medical applications of
Apart from pharmaceuticals, the leaves of
Nuphar are reported to
contain sufficient concentrations of tannin to have been widely used
for tanning and dyeing leather, and also as a styptic for staunching
bleeding. The roots of some species also contain sufficient tannin
to have been used for tanning.
Nuphar on a small lake, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge,
^ Eastman, John (2014). Wildflowers of the eastern United States (1st
ed.). Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.
^ Etymololgy of Nuphar, same as French Nenuphar (in French).
^ a b c USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network:
2009-08-27 at the Wayback Machine.
^ a b c Wiersema, J. H.; Hellquist, C. B. (1997). "Nymphaeaceae".
Flora of North America. 3.
^ a b The
Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet;
http://www.theplantlist.org/ (accessed February 2016)
^ Beal, E. O. (1956). "Taxonomic revision of the genus
Nuphar Sm. of
North America and Europe". Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific
Society. 72: 317–346.
^ USDA Plants Profile Nuphar
^ a b c Padgett, D. J. (2007). "A Monograph of
(PDF). Rhodora. 109: 1–95.
^ DeVore, ML; Taylor, W; Pigg, KB (2015). "
Nuphar carlquistii sp. nov.
(Nymphaeaceae): A Water Lily from the Latest Early Eocene, Republic,
Washington". International Journal of
Plant Sciences. 176 (4):
^ Padgett, Donald (1998). "Phenetic distinction between the dwarf
Nuphar microphylla and N. pumila (Nymphaeaceae)"
(PDF). Canadian Journal of Botany. doi:10.1139/b98-125.
^ Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and
Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2
^ Laing, H. E. (1940). "Respiration of the rhizomes of
and other water plants". American Journal of Botany. 27: 574–81.
^ Dacey, J. W. H. (1981). "Pressurized ventilation in the yellow water
lily". Ecology. 62: 1137–47. doi:10.2307/1937277.
^ Keddy, P.A. (2010). Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation
(2nd edition). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
^ Elakovich, S.D.; Yang, Jie (1966). "Structures and allelopathic
Nuphar alkaloids: Nupharolutine and
6,6'-dihydroxythiobinupharidine". Journal of Chemical Ecology. 22
(12): 2209–2219. doi:10.1007/bf02029541.
^ a b Jim Kimmel; Jerry Touchstone Kimmel (2006). The San Marcos: A
River's Story. Texas A&M University Press. pp. 92–.
^ a b Washington State Department of Ecology, Native Freshwater
Plants. Spatterdock - A
Plant With Many Uses 
^ a b c Green Deane, Yellow Pond Lily
^ Wrobel, J. T.; Iwanow, A.; Braekman-Danheux, C.; Martin, T. I.;
MacLean, D. B. (1972). "The Structure of Nupharolutine, an
Nuphar luteum". Can. J. Chem. 50: 1831–1837.
^ Polya, Gideon Maxwell. Biochemical targets of plant bioactive
compounds: a pharmacological reference guide to sites of action and
biological effects, Taylor & Francis, 2003,
^ Korotkov, Alexander; Li, Hui; Chapman, Charles W.; Xue, Haoran;
MacMillan, John B.; Eastman, Alan; Wu, Jimmy (2015). "Total Syntheses
and Biological Evaluation of Both Enantiomers of Several Hydroxylated
Nuphar Alkaloids". Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
54: 10604–10607. doi:10.1002/anie.201503934.
Padgett, Donald (1998). "Phenetic distinction between the dwarf yellow
Nuphar microphylla and N. pumila (Nymphaeaceae)" (PDF).
Canadian Journal of Botany. 76: 1755–1762.
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