White or rose.
Flowers: large; solitary. Calyx: of four to six sepals. Corolla: of numerous petals in many concentric circles, the innermost passing gradually into stamens. Stamens: numerous. Pistil: one, having a many-celled ovary, the rounded top of which produces radiate stigmas around a central projection. Leaves: floating; orbicular, or rounded. Stents: hollow; long and round. Rootstock: thick; fleshy.
The white water-lily is the most beautiful of the aquatics. Over the calm surface of the ponds it moves by means of its long, free stems as gracefully as many an animal. In fact, the habits of this lovely flower are not unlike those of the snails and beetles with which it dwells in its watery home. One of the most interesting features of aquatic life is the way that the plants care for themselves during the cold weather. In summer, the lily floats upon the surface of the water so as to attract the attention of the aquatic insects on which it relies for fertilization. Being untrammelled by space, it spreads its leaves out roundly to the sunshine and drinks in abundantly of life. The water serves well to float the leaves instead of the stalks that are necessary to aerial foliage.
When the air is chilly with forebodings of frost and ice, the lily, having fulfilled its mission of reproducing itself and storing up vigour, for there is never any procrastination about the flowers, sinks to the bottom of the pond and nestles in the mud. The warmer water, which is heavier than ice, also remains at the bottom. This considerate arrangement of nature's laws makes it, therefore, possible for the fair lily to spend the winter very comfortably and no doubt enjoying itself with the water nymphs to whom it has been dedicated.
The plant also illustrates the gradation of sepals into petals and petals into stamens, or the metamorphosis of the flower. The sepals or transformed leaves are green without but white within, so that it is difficult to know with any amount of certainty to which set they belong. An inner row of petals is found to be tipped with a suggestion of an anther. In the next row the anther becomes more pronounced and the petal assumes more the shape of a filament. This gradation is continued until a perfect stamen is developed. At least, this is the manner in which we are apt to regard the transformation. Many writers, however, of whom Mr. Grant Allen is one, consider that the gradation is in the reverse order and that petals are transformed stamens.
At the close of day the lily folds up its petals, gathers its leaves and stems together, and disappears under the water. Not a trace of its whereabouts is left: like the Arab it has silently stolen away. Moore alludes to this fact in comparing the lily to virgins that bathe in the water all night and appear more fresh and beautiful in the morning.