American White Water-lily Spatter-dock American White Water-lily American Yellow Water-lily

What are they?

The floating leaves of water-lilies are readily recognised by most people as they float on the surface of calm ponds and slow-moving rivers.

Where are they found?

Water-lilies are commonly found in areas of standing fresh water, from lakes to slow-moving rivers and sometimes even the smallest of openings in sphagnum bogs.


White water-lilies are easily identified by their flowers. Yellow water-lilies are a tougher prospect as even the experts can't agree on just how many species are involved. Sometimes, authors lump all forms under the name Nuphar lutea, the name of the form commonly found in Europe. Note that in yellow water-lilies, the yellow 'petals' are actually colored sepals; the true petals are many, but are small and hidden inside the flower. To further confuse the issue, there can be up to nine sepals and some may be small and green!

Water-shield      Brasenia schreberi

A scarce plant of permanently wet areas. Flowers June to August. Formerly considered to be in the water-lily family but now placed with the fanworts (Cabombaceae). Resembles a very small water-lily, its narrowly oval leaves floating at the water surface.
Water-shield Water-shield

Spatter-dock      Nuphar advena

A widespread species of many kinds of freshwater habitats, from open lakes to small channels and ponds. Often found along larger waterways close to the coast that are affected by tidal movements, but beyond the saltwater line. Flowers May to September. Best told from other yellow water-lilies by its leaves which have the habit of standing rather upright instead of floating on the surface (dependent on water levels).
Spatter-dock Spatter-dock Spatter-dock
Leaves stand upright above
water surface

American Yellow Water-lily      Nuphar variegata

A common and widespread species of all kinds of freshwater habitats, from open lakes to often quite overgrown sites and even persists in land that is seasonally dry for short periods. Flowers May to September.
American Yellow Water-lily American Yellow Water-lily American Yellow Water-lily
Close-up of flower
Typical leaves

American White Water-lily      Nymphaea odorata

(Fragrant Water-lily) Widespread and common in lakes, ponds and some rivers and streams. Flowers June to September.
American White Water-lily American White Water-lily American White Water-lily American White Water-lily
Flower close-up