Nymphaea nouchali is a day-blooming nonviviparous plant with submerged roots and stems. Part of the leaves are submerged, while others rise slightly above the surface. The leaves are round and green on top; they usually have a darker underside. The floating leaves have undulating edges that give them a crenellate appearance. Their size is about 20–23 cm and their spread is 0.9 to 1.8 m.
This water lily has a beautiful flower which is usually violet blue in colour with reddish edges. Some varieties have white, purple, mauve or fuchsia-coloured flowers, hence its name red and blue water lily. The flower has 4-5 sepals and 13-15 petals that have an angular appearance making the flower look star-shaped from above. The cup-like calyx has a diameter of 11–14 cm.
N. nouchali is used as an ornamental plant because of its spectacular flowers. It is also popular as an aquarium plant under the name "Dwarf Lily" or "Dwarf Red Lily". Sometimes it is grown for its flowers, while other aquarists prefer to trim the lily pads, and just have the underwater foliage.
Nymphaea nouchali is considered a medicinal plant in Indian Ayurvedic medicine under the name Ambal; it was mainly used to treat indigestion. Like all waterlilies or lotuses, its tubers and rhizomes can be used as food items; they are eaten usually boiled or roasted. In the case of N. nouchali, its tender leaves and flower peduncles are also valued as food. The dried plant is collected from ponds, tanks and marshes during the dry season and used in India as animal forage.
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