The intrigue of night blooming
Nymphaea prolifera

by Craig Presnell
Click images to enlarge

Waterlilies in the subgenus Hydrocallis are rarely cultivated, as they bloom at night and are not as showy as their night blooming cousins in subgenus Lotos. Nymphaea prolifera (Wiersema) is interesting for an entirely different reason. It is wildly viviparous from its flowers.

I have observed two types of buds in N. prolifera. At the right is a flower bud.


This first type produces a flower, then a cluster of secondary buds. These flowers produced just one viviparous plant and then a pile of mush with no seed. 
Flower and secondary buds

Flowers from the secondary buds

Mush with no seed


The second type I call gemmiparous (reproducing from the bud). There is an obvious difference between this type of bud (left) and a flower bud (above). 

The original bud produces a single plantlet as the secondary buds emerge (below left).

They spread on the plant (below center) and continue to cascade detached from the plant (below right).

Spent flower buds


Spent gemmiparous buds

Tubers from gemmiparous buds

In the past the flower bud has always produced a flower and secondary flower buds. The gemmiparous bud produced an abundance of tubers. For the first time, I recently observed one flower bud with secondary tuber buds (left). 

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