Pygmy Rwandan Water Lily, Nymphaea thermarum

Nymphaea thermarum is a small species of water lily plant. The species is actually the smallest known species in its genus. N. thermarum belongs to the Nymphaeaceae family. The plant is native to the muddy waters of an overflowing freshwater hot spring in Mashyuza, Rwanda. Up until recently the plant was considered extinct in its native habitat; however, it has been cultivated from seed at The Royal Botanic Gardens.

Nymphaea thermarum will typically grow only .4 inches in diameter. The plant forms clusters and commonly blooms only in the early morning hours. N. thermarum is bottom rooted and its leaves rest atop the water’s surface. Its lily pads are smooth and bright green in color. White flowers with bright yellow stamens sit just above the lily pads. Both the plants sepals and the flower’s petals are covered in a fuzzy, hair-like film.

Nymphaea thermarum is technically self-pollinating but habitat destruction was the main factor in the plants extinction. Farmers began using the spring known to be the only habitat for the species and eventually the tiny water source dried up completely. Luckily a few specimens were saved and sent to be kept alive in the protected Botanic Gardens.

Image Caption: Pygmy Rwandan water lily (Nymphaea thermarum). Credit: C T Johansson/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)