Nymphaea thermarum Eb.Fisch. (1988)

Pygmy Rwandan water lily



Taxonomy & Nomenclature



Conservation Status

Last wild record: 2008 (e.g. Università Roma Tre, 2023 [press release])

Rediscovered in the wild on 29 July 2023 by a team from Università Roma Tre & University of Koblentz (see Università Roma Tre, 2023 [press release])

IUCN RedList status: Extinct in the Wild



southwest Rwanda (precise locality withheld for conservation reasons)


Biology & Ecology

See Magdalena (2009, 2018) for detailed cultural notes.






Above: submerged specimen in the Kew Gardens Water Lily House. Photo taken by Deror Avi on 26 July 2012. Released under CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Source: Wikimedia Commons.


Above: potted specimen in the collection of the Kew Gardens, London. Photo taken by Christer T. Johansson on 5 July 2011. Released under CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Source: Wikimedia Commons.



Original scientific description:

Fischer, Eberhard. (1988). Beiträge zur Flora Zentralafrikas I. Eine neue Nymphaea sowie ein neuer Streptocarpus aus Rwanda. Feddes Repertorium 99(9-10): 385-390.


Other references:

Christenhusz, M. and Govaerts, R. (2023). Uitgestorven. Op plantenjacht rond de wereld: 1-511. Sterck & De Vreese.

Dalrymple, S. E., Abeli, T., Ewen, J. G., Gilbert, T. C., Hogg, C. J., Lloyd, N. A., Moehrenschlager, A., Rodríguez, J. P. and Smith, D. (2023). Addressing Threats and Ecosystem Intactness to Enable Action for Extinct in the Wild Species. Diversity 15: 268.

Erice, Aina S. (2018). Carlos Magdalena is the Plant Messiah. The Planthunter volume 55 (online). Available at: [Accessed 8 September 2021]

Fischer, Eberhard. (1993). Taxonomic results of the BRYOTROP-Expedition to Zaire and Rwanda. Tropical Bryology 8: 13-37.

Fischer, Eberhard and Magdalena, Carlos. (2010). 690. Nymphaea thermarum: Nymphaeaceae: Plant in Peril, 34. Curtis's Botanical Magazine 27(4): 318-319, 321-327.

Fischer, Eberhard, Ntore, S., Nshutiyayesu, S., Luke, W. R. Q., Kayombo, C., Kalema, J., Kabuye, C. and Beentje, H. J. (2019). Nymphaea thermarum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T185459A103564869. Accessed on 10 June 2022.

Holmes, Branden. (2021). What's Lost and What Remains: The Sixth Extinction in 100 Accounts (eBook). Self published.

Humphreys, Aelys M., Govaerts, Rafaël, Ficinski, Sarah Z., Lughadha, Eimear Nic and Vorontsova, Maria S. (2019). Global dataset shows geography and life form predict modern plant extinction and rediscovery. Nature Ecology & Evolution 3: 1043-1047. [Abstract] [Supplementary Dataset 1]

Juffe, D. (2010). Nymphaea thermarum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. ( Downloaded on 31 January 2015.

Lei, Maolin and Hu, Yiheng. (2022). The complete chloroplast genome of Nymphaea thermarum (Nymphaeaceae) from Rwanda, Africa. Mitochondrial DNA Part B 7(1): 289-291.

Magdalena, Carlos. (2009). Nymphaea thermarum - The world's tiniest waterlily doesn't grow in water! Water Gardeners International 4: 4.

Magdalena, Carlos. (2018). The Plant Messiah. Viking (Penguin Books imprint). 224 pp.

Povilus, R. A. and Friedman, W. E. (2022). Transcriptomes across fertilization and seed development in the water lily Nymphaea thermarum (Nymphaeales): evidence for epigenetic patterning during reproduction. Plant Reproduction 35(3): 161-178.

Povilus, Rebecca A., Losada, Juan M. and Friedman, William E. (2015). Floral biology and ovule and seed ontogeny of Nymphaea thermarum, a water lily at the brink of extinction with potential as a model system for basal angiosperms. Annals of Botany 115(2): 211-226.

Università Roma Tre. (2023, September 15). Team italo-tedesco riscopre in natura la ninfea più piccola del mondo / German-Italian team rediscovered in the wild the smallest waterlily in the world [Press release]. Available at: [Accessed 21 September 2023]



Dr. Thomas Abeli kindly sent me the press release announcing the rediscovery of the species in the wild by a team including himself.


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