Water lilies have floating leaves. There are about 40 species of water lily in the world, plus numerous hybrids and varieties. Some water lily species prefer southerly warmth and are found in temperate and semi-tropical zones, some prefer the cold and are found only in northern Canada and Alaska.
This species, fragrant water lily (Nymphaea odorata), occurs from Puerto Rico to Alaska and from California to Quebec (Kartesz 1999). Its many subspecies and varieties may be found floating in ponds, lakes and sluggish streams just about everywhere in North America.
Water lily leaves are nearly circular in shape. They are notched to the center. Its leaf lobes are pointed. The leaves arise on stalks from long rhizomes in the mud. Fragrant water lily flowers are showy white and aromatic. Flowers of unusual color and shape are characteristic of hybrid water lilies.
Fragrant water lily is a floating aquatic that can grow in water up to 8' deep. The leaves develop directly from the rootstock on long petioles. They are 4-12" across, orbicular in shape, cleft toward the middle on one side, and smooth along the outer margins. The upper surface of the leaf is medium green, while the lower surface is often purplish; its texture is rather leathery and thick. Fine veins radiate outward from the center of the leaf. The air pores through which the leaf breathes are located on the upper surface, rather than the lower surface (unlike the leaves of most plants). The long petiole of each leaf is terete, stout, and purplish; it is often covered with algae.