Water Lily Stem
The plant is a perennial, but each flowering plant only lives for one day. It is pollinated by insects that are attracted to its bright colors. The fruit is capsules that contain tiny seeds which are liberated when the capsule splits open at maturity.
The stalks arise from thick, fleshy, creeping underwater stems that are buried in the mud. The showy, fragrant, solitary flowers are borne at or above the water surface on long stalks that are attached to the underground stems. Each cuplike flower has a spiral arrangement of its numerous petals. The stem is glabrous, terete, 4-angled or winged, twisted or straight. Leaves are opposite, triangular, or cordate at the base with rounded tips.
Flowers are solitary with spirally arranged tepals which are white to lavender. The fruit consists of a capsule of about 1mm in diameter with a thin wall and is globose to ovoid. Seeds are very small and numerous. Native to freshwater swamps and lakes in eastern North America, from Nova Scotia west to Manitoba south to Texas and Florida. "M. capitata" grows in ponds, swamps, marshes, slow-moving streams, or sluggish rivers with mud bottoms. It prefers deeper water than other species in the genus. Also found in parts of Africa. "Mulpusi" is a name given to this plant by native people who live near Lake Victoria, Tanzania.
Native Americans used this plant as food and medicine. The root was chewed for its sweet taste to stave off hunger during long hunting trips. This treatment also cured diarrhea, indigestion, and stomachaches in general. A poultice of the roots was applied to wounds in order to stop bleeding. The leaves were used as bandages for wounds, sores, or boils. It was also used to treat tuberculosis by inhaling the smoke from dried plants burned in a fire pit.
The plant prefers wet soil or mud at a shallow depth. It occurs at sea level through most of the temperate regions of the world. In North America, it ranges from Alaska to Newfoundland south to central California, the Gulf Coast, and Florida. In Asia, it occurs across most of Russia and Japan, China, Korea, and India. It is also found in South America and Africa. is a perennial plant of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) that occurs throughout the cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere.