Temporal range: 130–0 Ma Early Cretaceous - Recent
2007 nymphaea lotus.jpg
Nymphaea lotus
Scientific classification e
Salisb. ex Bercht. & J.Presl[1]


The Nymphaeales are an order of flowering plants, consisting of three families of aquatic plants, the Hydatellaceae, the Cabombaceae, and the Nymphaeaceae (water lilies). It is one of the three orders of basal angiosperms, an early-diverging grade of flowering plants. At least 10 morphological characters unite the Nymphaeales.[2] Molecular synapomorphies are also known.

The Plant List, created by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden recognizes about 70 species in 11 genera within the order,[3] but a phylogenetic study of the genus Nymphaea implies that the number of species could be more than 90.[4] The difference in species numbers is due almost entirely to the difficulty of delineating species in the genus Nymphaea.

All of the species are rhizomatous aquatic herbs with a broad leaf base and large, showy flowers.


The fossil record consists especially of seeds, but also pollen, stems, leaves, and flowers. It extends back to the Cretaceous.[5][6] The crown group of the Nymphaeales has been estimated to be about 112 million years old.[7] Some have suggested that this age might be too old.[8]

The aquatic plant fossil Archaefructus possibly belongs to this group.[9]

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