Impressionist painter Claude Monet loved water lilies so much he painted more than 250 works of art featuring this aquatic plant. The delicate blossoms transform a pond, shallow and still freshwater, and slow-moving streams into fragrant, colorful gardens.
Water lilies are important symbolically for several reasons. In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions they represent resurrection because many of the lilies close their flowers at night and reopen at sunlight. The bright aquatic flowers rising from the dirty mud symbolize enlightenment. Their association with water is also symbolic of birth.
There are more than 50 types of water lilies found in a wide range of colors including white, pink, red, orange, yellow, purple, and blue. Tropical varieties typically have brighter shades. They also have variations of leaves including star-shaped, cup-shaped, smooth, and jagged.
Although water lilies are in the same family (Nymphaeceae) as lotus, they are somewhat different. Mainly, the leaves and flowers of water lilies (Nymphaea species) float on the water’s surface. The leaves and flowers of the lotus (Nelumbo species) rise above the water’s surface.
These aquatic plants are an important player in the ecosystem. The flowers and leaves provide shade which keeps the water cooler and prevents algae from growing. They also offer fish beneath the lily pads refuge from the hot sun and covered shelter from predatory birds.
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