Fragrant Water Lily

Nymphaea odorata subsp. odorata


Status in Squamish:


Status in Whistler:


Status in Pemberton:

ID Characteristics

General: Fragrant Water Lily is a wetland plant that is native to Eastern Canada and the United States.

Flowers: White, large (6 – 19 cm wide) symmetrical flowers with prominent yellow stamens and multiple white (occasionally pink) petals. Fragrant Water Lily flowers perform nyctinasty (opening in the morning and closing at night).

Stem: Slender flexible stems that lack stolons.

Leaves: Large (about 25 cm diameter) round leaves that float on the water surface. Leaves have a smooth waxy surface and are often purple on the underside.

Seeds: Berry-like capsules 1 – 2 cm in diameter that contain many seeds. This leathery capsule ruptures irregularly, releasing a jelly-like seed mass. Seeds are egg-shaped, 1.5 – 2.5 mm long and 1.5 – 1.7 mm wide.

Similar Species


Floating-leaved Pondweed (Potamogeton natans): This wetland plant also floats on the surface of slow-moving or stagnant waters. It can be distinguished by its egg-shaped leaves and tiny inconspicuous flowers.






Yellow-Pond Lily (Nuphar Polysepalum): This is another plant that floats on the surface of slow or stagnant waters. It has heart-shaped leaves and large yellow cup-shaped flowers that distinguish it from the Fragrant Water Lily.


Please report any sighting of Fragrant Water Lily by clicking here.

Habitat and Origin

Fragrant Water Lily is native to Eastern Canada and the United States.

This plant is a wetland plant that can be found floating on the surface of shallow lakes, ponds and slow-moving water. Its habitat range includes streams in the lowland, steppe, and lower mountainous zones. The climate type for this species is not evaluated at this time and is thought to be variable.

Current Distribution

Propagation & Vectors of Spread

Fragrant Water Lily seeds and rhizomes spread in water; the plant is also common in water gardens and can be purchased from nurseries and mail order catalogues.

Ecological and Health Impacts


  • May decrease the value of waterfront property because it can restrict lakefront access.
  • Reduces water-based recreation opportunities and creates hazardous swimming due to potential entanglement.
  • This can impact recreation tourism company revenues.


  • Out-competes native plants due to its rapid spread and dense patches (can cover a 5 m diameter in 5 years).
  • Dense floating mats prevent light penetration for native aquatic plants and thus alter the distributions of phytoplankton, zooplankton, aquatic insects, and fish populations.
What Can I Do?

Fragrant Water Lily distribution is currently unknown in the Sea to Sky Region, so PREVENTION of further spread is key. Please REPORT all potential sightings.

Learn to identify Fragrant Water Lily: use the images presented in this profile page to learn how to identify this plant.

What to do if you spot it: You can report this plant by clicking here.



  • Regularly monitor properties for infestations.
  • Avoid planting Fragrant Water Lily.
  • Choose non-invasive or native plants for your water garden.
  • Properly dispose of invasive garden waste and all aquatic plants (bag waste and transport to landfill).


  • Transport Fragrant Water Lily from one location to another.




  • Cutting and harvesting the plant does have some level of success if done several times a year.
  • Removing and properly disposing of the rhizome is the key to success.
  • Excavation can be successful in Water Lily control (but an “Application for work in and about a stream” is required prior to any excavation, otherwise fines may be incurred).


  • Small infestations may be controlled by covering with a thick dark fabric that blocks out the light.
  • Cultural control can also be achieved by carbon depletion: as the leaves begin to emerge during the growing season, faithfully remove all of them (this method can take up to 2 to 3 years).


Fragrant Water Lily’s aquatic habitat makes chemical control impossible.


There are currently no effective biological control agents available for Fragrant Water Lily.