Nelumbonaceae A.Rich.

This family is accepted.


Aona, L.Y.S. and Zappi, D. Neotropical Nelumbonaceae.


Herbaceous aquatic perennials producing latex , developing horizontal rhizomes and tubers with adventitious roots . Leaves in groups of three along  stem , vertically two-ranked, with a sheathing cataphyll on one side then a cataphyll and an expanded leaf on other side; stipule sheathing, open; petiole of emergent leaves terete , to 2m in length; leaf emergent or floating, simple , peltate , involute , venation dichotomous , blades concave, large, 10-100 cm across, orbiculate, bluish green adaxially and extremely water repellent. Flowers solitary, hermaphrodite , actinomorphic , hypogynous, showy (10 or more cm diam.), pink to white or yellowish, elevated above water on terete peduncles up to 2 m in length; perianth caducous ; sepals 2-5; petals ca. 20-30; stamens 200-300, filaments elongate, bearing four introrsely to latrorsely dehiscent anthers, terminated by claw -like appendages. Gynoecium of 2-30 free carpels embedded in  truncate surface on an enlarged obconical , spongy receptacle ; each carpel with a distinct, circular and wet stigma , with a central channel into  ovary ; one pendulous ovule per carpel . Fruits globose or elongate ovoid , with  carpel wall adnate to the testa forming a hard-walled nut with an apical pore; seeds exalbuminose.

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Nelumbo Adans. (2 species, N. nucifera Gaert. and N. lutea (Willd.) Pers.).
Other important characters
  • Pollen characters, such as tricolpate globose-spherical pollen grains, symmetry isopolar and radiate, columellae well-developed.
Key differences from similar families
  • Nelumbonaceae used to be associated with Nymphaeaceae, the two having superficially similar flowers and vegetative parts. The differ in habit, as Nelumbo has leaves and flowers elevated above the water surface by stalks, while Nymphaeaceae leaves and flowers float on the surface.
Notable genera and distinguishing features
  • See family description.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Nelumbonaceae are water plants, easily recognized by their peltate leaves with dichotomous main venation, held above the water surface like parasols.
  • Their flowers which resemble those of water lilies but are emergent (not floating).
  • Free carpels immersed in a large, obconicalreceptacle.

(Stevens 2009)

General Description
Number of genera

One: Nelumbo.

  • Nelumbo nucifera is native to southern Russia, Asia, India and Australia.
  • Nelumbo lutea is native to eastern N. America.
  • Both species are common in water gardens.

(Williamson & Schneider 1993)

General notes
  • The dry receptacles are used in floral arrangements.
  • Notes on delimitation
    • Nelumbonaceae belongs to the Proteales together with two tree -families, the Platanaceae and Proteaceae.
    • Chase et al. (1993) found Platanaceae and Nelumbonaceae to be sister taxa. Barthlott et al. (1996) noted that the cuticle waxes of Platanaceae and Nelumbonaceae were very different. Indeed, although the order is small, it seems uncomfortably heterogeneous and has only moderate support in molecular analyses.
    Important literature

    Barthlott, W. [et al. 1996], Neinhuis, C., Jetter, R., Bourauel, T., & Riederer, M. 1996. Waterlily, poppy, or sycamore: On the systematic position of Nelumbo. Flora 191: 169-174.

    Chase, M. W. [et al. 1993], Soltis, D. E., Olmstead, R. G., Morgan, D., Les, D. H., Mishler, B. D., Duvall, M. R., Price, R. A., Hills, H. G., Qiu, Y.-L., Kron, K. A., Rettig, J. H., Conti, E., Palmer, J. D., Manhart, J. R., Sytsma, K. J., Michaels, H. J., Kress, W. J., Karol, K. G., Clark, W. D., Hedrén, M., Gaut, B. S., Jansen, R. K., Kim, K.-J., Wimpee, C. F., Smith, J. F., Furnier, G. R., Strauss, S. H., Xiang, Q.-Y., Plunkett, G. M., Soltis, P. S., Swensen, S. M., Williams, S. E., Gadek, P. A., Quinn, C. J., Eguiarte, L. E., Golenberg, E., Learn, G. H., Jr., Graham, S. W., Barrett, S. C. H., Dayanandan, S., & Albert, V. A. 1993. Phylogenetics of seed plants: An analysis of nucleotide sequences from the plastid gene rbcL. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 80: 528-580.

    Stevens, P. F. (2001 onwards). Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 9, February 2009 [and more or less continuously updated since].

    Williamson, P.S. & Schneider, E.L. 1993. Nelumbonaceae. In: K. Kubitzki, Rohwer, J.G., Bittrich, V. (ed.). The families and genera of vascular plants - Volume 2. Springer Verlag. Berlin, p. 470-472.

    Nelumbonaceae A.Rich. appears in other Kew resources:

    First published in Dict. Class. Hist. Nat. [Bory] 11: 492. 1827 [10 Feb 1827] (1827)

    Accepted by

    • APG IV (2016)

    • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

      The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at and
      © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

    • Kew Science Photographs

      Copyright applied to individual images

    • Neotropikey

      Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.