plant Easy level

Nymphaea lotus L.

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White Egyptian Lotus

Nymphaea lotus is a beautiful and very varied species from West Africa with leaves of green to red-brown and varying numbers of purple spots.

This species includes 2 Accepted Infraspecifics:

  • Nymphaea lotus var. lotus
  • Nymphaea lotus var. thermalis (DC.) Tuzson

The term Nymphaea comes from the Greek Νυμφἅς Nymphas Ninfa, a minor deity of Greek mythology guardian and animator of particular natural environments, depicted as a beautiful young girl. The specific epithet lotus comes from the Greek λωτός lotós, mythical plant, of which Homer tells in the Odyssey, which had the property of making people lose their memory.

Native to: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Ivory Coast, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Romania, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe.

Introduced into: Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil Southeast, Colombia, Costa Rica, Florida, Guyana, Louisiana, Mauritius, Panamá, Seychelles, Society Is., Venezuela.

Submitted by
Benedetta Spelta
Geographical region
Eastern Africa
Drainage Basin
River catchment
Water body type
Water body name
Water body part
Water body course
Water body: tributary of
Tributary name
Type locality
Conservation status/IUCN Red List
Not Evaluated (NE)
Listed in CITES

Water Chemistry

Water information

Water type
Fresh water
Water color
Clear water
Water transparency
Concentration of sediments
Water temperature
22-30 °C
Water flow/curent

Chemical parameters

Dissolved Oxygen


Plant form
Plant type
Plant size
20-80 cm
Plant growth rate
Plant light demand
Aquarium equipment

Plants of the order Nymphaeles typically require calm, shallow (<2 m) water, full sunlight and neutral to slightly alkaline pH. Nymphaea lotus occurs in both mesotrophic and oligotrophic waters, its nutrient requirements being obtained from the organic detritus into which it is rooted.

Plant care

Plants of Nymphaea lotus are distinguishable from other neotropical Nymphaea by several characteristics. The mature leaves are regularly spinose-dentate, very strongly peltate (pelta 2-5 cm) and usually covered with short pubescence, which is sometimes very dense, on the undersurfaces and petioles. The penduncles are often pubescent as well and project the flowers up to 20 cm above the water surface. The normally white-petaled flowers are distinctive in having very prominently veined sepals, stamens with only minute connective appendages and long (ca 10-15 mm) linear carpellary processes. Of other species with dentate leaves, Nymphaea ampla is glabrous, has stamens with prominent connective appendages and has short conical carpellary processes. Nymphaea rudgeana is glabrous with very irregularly indulate or dentate leaves, has sepals lacking prominent venation and has clavate carpellary processes.

The white Egyptian lotus must be grown in areas with shallow waters and if you want to keep the plant low and compact, avoiding the proliferation of superficial leaves, it is necessary from time to time to eliminate the larger leaves (the older ones) by pruning them at the base of the petiole, and to cut immediately the stems of the leaves clearly destined to the surface whenever they occur.

In low light conditions the plant remains less compact and the production of leaves destined for the surface is much earlier and more frequent, as the lack of light on the bottom pushes the plant more towards the search for surface light. In practice, in nature, due to the darkening of the seabed caused by the proliferation of superficial leaves, the plant ceases the formation of foliage destined to remain submerged and produces only foliage of the type intended for the surface, the plant practically becomes like a float, but held at the bottom by the rhizome.

Water care

The water flow must not be too strong, in fact the stagnant water is better.

As far as fertilization is concerned, it is a medium-sized plant, a complete and balanced fertilization certainly helps in obtaining a good quality of the submerged foliage, both in terms of consistency and coloring, but everything must obviously be related to the amount of light offered and to the administration of CO2.

As far as reproduction is concerned, the Nymphaea lotus, in nature, reproduces by flowering and subsequent fruiting.


Comment by the expert

The Nymphaea lotus flower has been used for thousands of years as a traditional medicine in ancient Egypt. Today, it’s commonly consumed as a tea, smoked or vaped, or inhaled as an essential oil.