Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 213 Nymphaea odorata

Common Names: alligator bonnet, fragrant water lily Family: Nymphaeaceae (water lily Family)

alligator bonnet
The beautiful blossoms of the alligator bonnet decorate lakes and ponds from the Deep South to the Great White North (Zone 3) where alligators never venture.


The smallest of the white water lilies, alligator bonnet has pure white petals with a soft yellow center. The fragrant flowers are 4-9 in (10-23 cm) in diameter and are produced throughout the summer in most regions. Rounded floating leaves or pads are 4-5 in (10-13 cm) across and the plant has a spread of from 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m). When crowded for space, the flowers that normally float on the surface will rise on their stems a few inches above the water. Flowers open in the morning and close by afternoon. This hardy water lily goes dormant in winter. Several selections are available including 'Sulfurea' with yellow flowers and 'Turicensis' with light pink petals.


Alligator bonnet, Nymphaea odorata, is native to the eastern United States. Naturalized in Great Britain.


Light: Enjoys full sun. Moisture: Submerged to depths from 3 in (7.6 cm) to 6 ft (1.8 m). Not particular about soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 - 11. This plant is adapted to both temperate and tropical environments. Propagation: Division of rhizomes.
water lilypads
The notch in the lily pad was designed by nature to entangle fishing lines and frustrate fishermen (fisherpersons?).


Can be grown in very small pools or even large, water-filled pots or urns. Very good in lakes, ponds and slow moving streams. This water lily is happy in even the smallest pools, since the tubers will root in mud when covered by a mere three inches of water. Needs little care.


The alligator bonnet is compact, spectacularly beautiful and very fragrant - it's perfect for the first time water gardener. The genus name comes from Nympha, a nature goddess in Greek and Roman mythology.

Jack Scheper 11/20/97; updated 7/17/04

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Nymphaea species profiled on Floridata:

Nymphaea odorata

( alligator bonnet, fragrant water lily )

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