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Weed Identification

American white waterlily



Scientific Name

Nymphaea odorata

Other Common Names:

fragrant waterlily


The leaves are floating, circular in outline, approximately 6 to 12 inches wide. The leaves are usually green above and purple-tinged below, with one central cleft that cut to the center of the leaf where the petiole attaches to the leaf. The lobes of this cleft are pointed. Leaves occur on petioles that may reach 6 feet in length.

Identifying Characteristics

Aquatic perennials with large floating leaves that are circular in outline with a central cleft and pointed lobes. Additionally, the large, showy flowers helps to distinguish these species from most other aquatic plants. The waterlilies are somewhat similar to Watershield (Brasenia schreberi) in appearance, however watershield is generally smaller and does not have a distinctive cleft like the waterlilies. The waterlilies may also be confused with the floating-hearts (Nymphoides spp.), however the floating-hearts have rounded lobes and much smaller, less showy flowers.

Flower Seed Head

Individual flowers are floating and showy, usually white and yellow in color, but other cultivated forms have pink or purple flowers. Each flower may be from 3 to 5 inches wide.

Where Found

Aquatic perennials with floating leaves and showy flowers. Waterlilies occur in ponds, lakes, and marshes, and are often cultivated and sold for ornamental uses in home ponds.

Life Cycle


Plant Type