Nymphoides indica

water snowflake


Nymphoides indica

(L.) Kuntze 1891

pronounced: nym-FOY-deez IN-dik-uh

(Menyanthaceae — the buckbean or marshwort family)


common name: water snowflake

native 4Nymphoides means ‘resembling Nymphaea (water lily)’; indica is from the Latin indicus, of India. There are some 50 species of Nymphoides, including Nymphoides aquatica (banana plant, native in south-east USA) and Nymphoides cordata (native in north-east USA). Nymphoides peltata is native to Europe and Asia, but can be found in the USA as an invasive aquatic weed. Nymphoides cristata and Nymphoides indica, both non-native to the USA, occur in Florida.

Nymphoides indica is a species that grows underwater, with the leaves of the plant floating on the surface like water lilies. The flowers are held upright above the leaves. It is native to Australia, found in the north of the country, and down the east coast as far south as Sydney. It also grows in southern Asia, including parts of China, and on many of the Pacific islands.

This species prefers warm still or slowly moving water, to about 2 m in depth. It is a robust perennial, with floating stolons and leaves; the stems will grow to several metres in length; the leaves and inflorescences are terminal, but sometimes the stems are branched. The stems produce thick, blunt, banana-shaped roots underneath the leaves. The leaves have the lamina almost orbicular with a radial slit, 3 - 18 (occasionally 30) cm in diameter, the margins entire; they are shortly petiolate.

The plants are hererostylous: each population contains plants with flowers containing high anthers and low styles, and plants with flowers containing low anthers and high styles; this favours cross-pollination when pollen is transferred from flowers with high anthers to flowers with high styles. The flowers are numerous, with pedicels 2 – 8 cm long, often emergent through the radial slit in the leaves. The calyx is 6 – 8 mm long; the corolla to 18 mm long, white with yellow or orange at the base, bearded inside. Flowering occurs from spring through to autumn.

The capsules are elliptic, 3 – 5 mm, few-seeded. The seeds are 1 – 2 mm long, smooth, straw-coloured, with a smooth seed-coat.

This plant is often used as a pond plant, in water bowls, tubs and small ponds in protected areas in cooler climates, and in large ponds in the tropics. Though the flowers are tiny, they are very pretty.

I understand that young stems and leaves are cooked and eaten in parts of Asia.


Photographs taken by the Horseshoe Bay lagoon 2009
Page last updated 11th February 2019