Classif.Nat. Order Nymphacea. Polyandria monogynia, L.
Genus NYMPHEA. Calyx four or five leaved, many petals in several rows inserted on the torus as well as the many stamina. Torus rounded, radiated above, with a central hollow and tubercle, becoming a many-celled spongy berry, containing many polypermous cells like membranaceous follicles. Leaves radical, scapes uniflore.
Sp. Nymphea odorata. Smooth, leaves orbicular, base split, lobes acuminate, calyx four leaved, equal to the petals, which are unequal white, elliptic, obtuse.
Description. Roots perennial, creeping, rough and blackish, thick and knotty. Petioles semiterete, one to six feet long, spongy or filled with oblong tubes: leaves floating on the surface of water, nearly round and entire, with a cleft at the base, subpeltate, lobes ending in short acuminate points: upper surface glossy without veins, lower redish, with radiating nerves. Petioles terete smooth, bearing one large white floating flower. Calyx with four equal oblong obtuse folioles, green outside, white within. Petals numerous in many rows, unequal, the inner ones shorter, oblong, obtuse, flat, or concave; stamina numerous, in several rows, with oblong petaloid filaments, and yellow adnate twisted anthers, bilocular, opening inside; pistil formed by a torus or radiated receptacle, with twelve to twenty-four rays, which appear to be as many stigmas: fruit singular, berry like, inclosing as many polyspermous utricles as rays and stigmas/
History. A beautiful genus of aquatic plants, and this species is one of the handsomest, the flowers being very large, three to four inches in diameter, and of a delicious fragrance. It grows all over the United States, from New England to Louisiana, in ponds, ditches, rivers, &c. It blossoms in summer; the flowers shut at night; the seeds ripen under water. It is very ornamental, both in its native and cultivated state. The perfume is similar to Magnolia, and very fugacious; it is destroyed by heat. The varieties are, 1. Parviflora, flowers much smaller. 2. Rubella, tinged with rose. 3. Chlorhiza, with yellow roots. The roots are fleshy and as thick as the arm, but in drying they become spongy and friable.
There are three other new species of Nymphea in North America, which have similar properties. They are:
1. Nymphea rosea. Raf. Leaves orbicular, split at the base, lobes divaricate, acute, lower surface red, petals rose coloured. In New York, Ohio, &c. with smaller flowers, less odorous.
2. Nymphea maculala. Raf. Leaves orbiculate, subundulate, dentate, base cordate, lobes obtuse, a brown central spot on the leaves, petals white. In Canada and New York, near Lake Ontario. Flowers nearly inodorous, smaller, with many narrow oblong obtuse petals.
3. Nymphea spiralis. Raf. (N. alba, Mx. and N. odorata, Elliot.) Leaves orbicular, emarginate, base split, colorate, lobes divaricate obtuse, petioles and scapes spiral, calix four leaved, equal to the corolla. In the Southern States. Flowers white, smell strong.
Properties. Similar to those of N. alba of Europe, but much more efficient and decided. The roots are chiefly used, and are kept in shops in New England. They are astringent, refrigerant, demulcent, anodyne, hypnotic, emollient, antiscrofulous, &c. Taste styptic and bitter when fresh; they dye of a dark brown and black colour with iron, and contain a large quantity of tannin and gallic acid; also starch, mucilage, sugar, resin, ammonia, ulmine, tartaric acid, &c. The variety with yellow roots is mildest and best. It is said to be preferable to Statice and Geranium maculatum, in almost all cases, being milder and quite as efficient. Externally, the roots and leaves are used for poultices in biles, tumors, scrofulous sores, lockjaw, and inflamed skin. Internally, the roots are useful in diarrhoea, dissentery, gonorrhea, leucorrhea, scrofula, and many fevers. It may be taken in decoction alone or with tonics. The fresh roots act sometimes as a rubefacient externally; the dry ones are best for use. The fresh leaves are excellent for cooling and emollient cataplasms; they are eaten by cows and cattle, and in Canada they are eaten in the spring, boiled for greens. The fresh root is used sometimes like soap. A conserve of the flowers is said to be very cooling and even anti-crotic. The syrup made with them is nearly useless, but the syrup of the roots is very good. The fresh juice of the roots, mixed with lemon juice, is said to be a good cosmetic, and to remove pimples and freckles of the skin. It may be united to Ulmus fulva and other discutients, for white swellings. Upon the whole, this plant has important properties, and deserves the attention of the medical practitioners, although many writers have totally omitted it.
The yellow Water Lilies belonging to the genus Nuphar, have the same properties, although less efficient.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.