Mysteries of Waterlily Identification - The opinions expressed below are not necessarily those of Victoria-Adventure. Andreas invites continuing discussion and additional information regarding -

N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora'

The Issue of Nymphaea
'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora'
and N. 'Sunrise'

by Andreas Protopapas

N. 'Sunrise'

Many think that Nymphaea 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora' and N. 'Sunrise' are distinctly different yellow hardy waterlilies. N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora' was hybridized by Latour-Marliac in 1888. Nymphaea 'Sunrise' is a large yellow hybrid thought to be of American origin, year of introduction unknown. There are descriptions of both plants in various publications, catalogues etc. I have spent considerable time in putting as many descriptions of both plants that I can find in this article.

Americans were happy that the US had produced a yellow hardy hybrid (N. 'Sunrise') and the Europeans were eager to import it from the US and introduce it as a new hybrid of superior merit. So what, you may ask, is the problem?

In 1993, Ray Davies, past president of the IWGS and owner of Stapeley Water Gardens in the UK and also owner of Latour-Marliac establishment in France, published the IWLS Identification of Hardy Nymphaea. This publication had the description of 176 hardy waterlilies complete with color drawings of each plant. In this publication there was no mention of N. 'Sunrise'; only N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora' was described. When I met Ray Davies for the first time in Cyprus in 1999, I questioned him about the N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora / N. 'Sunrise' issue.

He said that between 1927 to 1935 Johnson Water gardens of Hynes, California, gradually changed N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora' to N. 'Sunrise'. This statement appears in the preface of IWLS Identification of Hardy Nymphaea. I must confess that at that time I had my doubts. Here was a man who dared to tell the water garden world that for the past 60 years they had all been mislead. Some tended to believe him and others like me were still in doubt.

The whole issue lingered on for several years with some publications mentioning that N. 'Sunrise' was a synonym for N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora', and others describing the plants as being different. I would therefore like to produce evidence to convince all that N. 'Sunrise' is actually N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora'.

Looking at the Johnson Water gardens catalogues we can see that in the catalogue of 1927 there is no mention of N. 'Sunrise', only N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora'. 

Johnson catalogue 1927:

The first instance where 'Sunrise' is mentioned is in the Johnson Water Gardens 1930 catalogue, where it is clear that N. 'Sunrise' is actually N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora', "… introduced by us over forty years ago from Marliac in France".

Johnson catalogue 1930:

In the 1931 Johnson Water Gardens catalogue N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora' does not appear at all and is replaced by N. 'Sunrise'.

Johnson catalogue 1931:

The 1935 Johnson Water Gardens catalogue again only mentions 'Sunrise'. There were some other name changes as well. For example 'Pygmaea Helvola' is mentioned as Yellow Pygmy, 'Chromatella' as Marliac Yellow, 'Marliacea Rosea' as Marliac Rose etc.

Johnson catalogue 1935:

There is no mention of N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora' at all.

The name N. 'Sunrise' was starting to appear in US water garden centers. Across Europe nurseries were all excited and eager to import the new N. 'Sunrise'. A new introduction from the US, an outstanding variety, a superb new yellow, finest yellow introduced, a glorious yellow, etc. The price of N. 'Sunrise' was much higher than any of the other yellow varieties. It was being sold at for US$5 instead of the US$1 to US$2 for some of the other waterlilies. If they had not seen the Johnson 1930 catalogue, how would anyone think that this plant might actually be N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora'?

Below are descriptions of N. 'Sunrise' and N. 'Odorata Sulphurea Grandiflora' as they appear in various publications:

The Book of Water Gardening, Peter Bisset 1905, 1907:

1931 catalogue of Three Spring Fisheries:

William Tricker Catalogue 1932:

Water, Bog and Moisture-Loving Plants, Amos Perry circa 1937:

Water Gardening, Frances Perry 1938:

The Lotus Book of Water Gardening, Bill Heritage 1973:

Encyclopedia of the water-lily by Charles 0. Masters 1974:

Gardeners' Chronicle and Horticultural Trade Journal, April 4 1980, Aquatics by Philip Swindells:

Ponds and Water Gardens, Bill Heritage 1981:

Waterlilies, Philip Swindells 1983:

The Stapeley Book of Water Gardens, 1985:

Millers Water Gardens, no date:

Water Gardens for Plants and Fish, Charles B. Thomas 1988:

Waterlilies and other Aquatic Plants, compiled by Stapeley Water Gardens 1989:

Water Gardens, Jacqueline Hériteau & Charles B. Thomas 1994:

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