This description helped me understand better Robert Hayden’s poem Monet’s Water lillies and helped me improve the poem that I wrote inspired by that, Water lillies in my soul’s lake
From wisegeek.com: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-water-lilies.htm
Water lilies are aquatic plants which are frequently found along the edges of ponds, lakes, and streams. They have distinctive large rounded leaves or lily pads, and flowers which can be white, yellow, or pink. In addition to proliferating in the wild, water lilies are also cultivated for personal pleasure gardens and small water pools all over the world. The broad flowers typically have a plethora of almond shaped petals, although no less than six, along with six stamens.
There are over 70 species in the Nympheaceae family, which encompasses water lilies, and they are found widely distributed on many parts of the planet. Water lilies are also very ancient, and appear in numerous examples of art from antiquity, suggesting that they were prized for their beauty thousands of years ago, just as they are today. Water lilies are also religious symbols in many traditions, including Buddhism and Hinduism, and they are commonly associated with enlightenment and resurrection, as many water lilies close up and appear to die at night, reviving in the morning with the sunlight.
In Egyptian art, many royal representatives were depicted holding sacred lotuses, members of the water lily family, and the gods were also associated with water lilies. In Buddhism, the lotus is an important symbol of enlightenment because it illustrates beauty rising through mud and water to bloom. Because many species tightly furl their blossoms at light, the lotus is also a symbol of opening to the light.
There are three basic types of water lily: night, tropical, and hardy. As the name would suggest, night lilies bloom only at night, and close up when the sun rises. Tropical lilies are water lilies adapted to tropical environments, and some tropical lilies can grow leaves which are large enough to support the weight of a human being. Hardy lilies will grow in almost any environment, and are commonly found in North America and Europe.
The roots of water lilies are embedded in the mud, well below the water line. The mud keeps the roots moist and provides a source of nutrition, while richly oxygenated water seeps into the roots. The long, trailing stems of water lilies also collect oxygen from the water they grow in, and the big leaves readily collect sunlight for energy. Most water lilies reproduce by budding new tubers, which will densely concentrate water lilies in one area of a waterway unless the tubers are distributed by animals and the current.