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June 2021 EcoQuest: Leaping into Waterlilies!

Waterlily in bloom

Claude Monet was a founder of French impressionism, an avid painter documenting many people, places, the passing of seasons, and his spectacular garden. Monet’s Waterlilies are a series of paintings covering several groups of plants, from the oaks and trees in his backgrounds, to wildflowers and shrubs, and of course, the stunning waterlilies. Waterlilies (Nymphaea spp.) and several similar aquatic plants like spatterdock (Nuphar advena) will be the focus of the June EcoQuest, Leaping into Waterlilies!

Waterlilies are rooted, often rhizomatous aquatic plants that grow in warm freshwater environments with minimal flow. The part of the plant that we see floating on the water surface is the leaf that grows up from the ground on a stem that is typically a length proportional to the water depth. The flowers of waterlilies native to Florida are usually yellow or white and can be seen amongst the leaves at or above the water surface. Cultivated waterlilies can have flowers that are a wide variety of colors like shades of purple and blue. Waterlilies die back during the winter months or dryer periods then spring back from their roots when conditions for growth improve. This seasonal aspect along with the grand diversity of flower color and size were what attracted Monet to their beauty.

Waterlilies and spatterdock are important plants in the freshwater systems they inhabit, cooling the water from the beating sun and providing shade and cover to many fish, amphibians, and invertebrates. In addition to stabilizing substrate and reducing algae growth in lakes and wetlands these plants can be excellent fishing spots. Waterlilies can form large stands and are a favorite of lily-walking birds such as gallinules and moorhen which use long toes to walk across their leaves on the water surface. Water lily leaves range in size from several feet across in the giant Amazonian lily (Victoria amazonica) to only a centimeters across in the world’s smallest water lily, Nymphaea thermarum . Florida has a wonderful diversity of waterlilies ranging from the common spatterdock with its large leaves and smaller yellow flowers to the beautiful fragrant waterlily (Nymphaea odorata) with gorgeous white flowers. As always, be careful near freshwater in Florida as snakes and alligators may be present, but for those looking to head for the water safely, we hope you enjoy our June Ecoquest, Leaping into Waterlilies!

Below is a list of native lilies and lotuses in Sarasota and Manatee, how many can you find?

Brasenia schreberi – Watershield

Nelumbo lutea – American lotus

Nuphar advena – Spatterdock

Nymphaea elegans – Tropical royalblue waterlily

Nymphaea jamesoniana – James’s night-blooming waterlily

Nymphaea mexicana – Yellow waterlily

Nymphaea odorata – Fragrant white waterlily

Nymphoides aquatica – Floating heart


Each month, we also feature a new EcoQuest challenge to encourage the documentation of a specific species or group of species.


  1. Download the easy-to-use iNaturalist app on your mobile device, or visit on your computer.
  2. Set up a user account or sign in to join projects and submit observations.
  3. Visit the Sarasota-Manatee EcoFlora project, Leaping into Waterlilies and click “join” on the upper right.
  4. Photograph plants anywhere in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Take multiple photos to show important features for identification (overall plant, leaves, flowers, fruit, stem).
  5. Post your observations to iNaturalist.
  6. Check out your ranking on this month’s challenge online!


Help us document Waterlilies (Nymphaea spp.) and several similar aquatic plants like spatterdock (Nuphar advena).

Learn about the Sarasota-Manatee EcoFlora Project HERE

Join the project on iNaturalist HERE!