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Nymphaea thermarum

Nymphaea thermarum is the smallest waterlily in the world, and the only Nymphaea to grow in damp mud rather than water.
Flower of Nymphaea thermarum

Flower of Nymphaea thermarum

Species information

Scientific name: 

Nymphaea thermarum Eb.Fisch.

Common name: 

None at present. At Kew we are starting to refer to it as the ‘pygmy Rwandan water lily’ but this is not an official name.

Conservation status: 

Extinct in the wild.


Damp mud created by the overflow of a freshwater hot spring, where the water has cooled to 25˚C.

Key Uses: 

This species has always been so rare that no uses have ever been known.

Known hazards: 

None known.


Genus: Nymphaea

About this species

This ‘thermal’ waterlily, which grew around freshwater hot springs, was discovered in 1987 by German botanist Professor Eberhard Fischer of Koblenz-Landau University. It is known from just one location in Mashyuza, in southwest Rwanda. However, it disappeared from there about two years ago due to over-exploitation of the hot spring that fed this fragile habitat. Water was prevented from reaching the surface, resulting in the desiccation of the few square metres where this species grew, and no plant is known to have survived in the wild.


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