Read about Nan Bailey

Nan Bailey, Queensland, Australia, Knows and Grows
Australian Nymphaea nouchali

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This N. nouchali was collected from a drain running beside the Captain Cook Highway, opposite the Cairns Civil Airport, Aeroglen (suburb of Cairns), on 29 August 2006. I have seen this lily here each year for about 10 years. The drain dries out completely in the dry season and is inundated when the wet season arrives or when we have King Tides over 3 meters (10 feet).

Mostly the water is shallow, with a lot of leaf litter from the huge Melaleuca leucodendron trees growing along the western side of the drain. There are always plenty of seedlings growing around the parent plants. The habitat is fairly shaded, with morning sun only. Monochoria cyanea grow where there are breaks in the shade and various Cyperus species as well as grasses are found in the more shallow parts.

The other place I have collected it is Keatings Lagoon just south of Cooktown. I was photographing the lagoon and plants in April 2007 when I spotted a small lily in a few inches of water at the base of a big Melaleuca. It was very shady there. When I investigated I thought it was N. nouchali and collected it. It was not in flower, but was a healthy plant.

This lagoon was almost full of tall Eleocharis sp, but in the clear spots in full sun, N. immutabilis were flowering. There were large Melaleuca trees around the perimeter of the lagoon where the water was shallow, and probably crocodiles in the lagoon so I dared not venture in.

The first ones I collected from around the airport about 10 years ago were difficult to grow and died within a short time. I wondered if the water at that time was slightly brackish, and that the plant resented being put straight into sweet water. Other collectors also found them hard to cultivate at that time. Since then I have collected them and grown them successfully. I have had the Keatings Lagoon plant flower for me as well.

Aeroglen Drain in the dry season
Chris Bown Photo

Keatings Lagoon

Keatings Lagoon


N. nouchali flowers prolifically, sets a lot of seed, and forms small tubers to carry it over the dry season.

The flowers are small, lilac-coloured with white at the base, with 7 to 8 narrow, pointed petals in 2 rows and 4 sepals, white on the insides with green veins, and green with dark streaks on the outsides. The flowers will open under water if the water level rises while it is normally opening.

The stamens are wide, yellow with violet tips and not plentiful. Pedicel is pinkish.

Flowering under water

The leaves are approximately 20 cm long by 15 cm wide (8 " by 6 ") at full size. Sinus is open and usually slightly pointed, margins slightly wavy, leaf surface raised a little between the veins so the veins show up.

Leaf topside is bright green with sparse brownish-purple specks, not evenly distributed.
Undersides are light purple with sparse deeper purple speckles. Veins are slightly raised and pale green. 

Bud under water

Seed pod


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