fragrant water lily

Nymphaea odorata


Family: Nymphaeaceae

Other common names: white water lily

Weed Class: C

Year Listed: 2002

Native to: Eastern half of North America, including southern Canada.

Toxic: not known to be

Other Legal Listings:

additional photos



Why is it a noxious weed?

Unmanaged fragrant water lily can form dense stands in water that can cover hundreds of acres and can persist until senescence in the fall. It can restrict lake-front access, eliminate swimming opportunities, and outcompete native aquatic vegetation.

How would I identify it?

General Description: It is an aquatic, bottom-rooted perennial. It has long, branched stolons extending up to 3.25 feet or more and lie just beneath the water’s surface. The nodes on the stolons typically produce a plant and many thread-like roots.

Flower Description: Flowers are fragrant, floating and solitary, 2.4 to 7.5 inches in diameter, are on long stems and open in the morning and close in the evening. They have 17 to 43 white, though sometimes pink, petals and 4 sepals. Stamens number 35 to 120 and are yellow.

Leaf Description: Leaf blades are rounded to nearly circular with a slit in one side, have smooth margins, are green above and usually reddish or purplish or sometimes green below. Leaf stalks (petioles) are green or purplish and slender, sometimes faintly striped.

Stem Description: Leaves and flowers are attached to rhizomes; there is not an upright stem.

Fruit/Seed Description: It forms leathery, berry-like capsules that contain many small seeds.

May be confused with:

How does it reproduce?

The fragrant water lily reproduces through both seeds and spreading rhizomes.

Where does it grow?

It grows rooted in mucky or silty sediments in water up to six to seven feet deep. It prefers quiet waters such as ponds, lake margins, and slow streams and will grow in acid or alkaline waters. Please click here to see a county level distribution map of fragrant water lily in Washington.

How do I control it?

General Control Strategy

Permits may be required for any control methods (hand-pulling, mechanical, chemical) done in natural waterbodies such as lakes and wetlands. Contact your County Noxious Weed Control Program for guidance.

Mechanical Control

Continually removing all leaves as they emerge may kill plants after a few seasons. Cut plant material must be removed from waterways. Cutting must be done several times per year.

Cultural Control

Control of small areas may be achieved by covering sediment with an opaque fabric to block light. Drawing down water levels, where possible, may control fragrant water lily.

Biological Control


Herbicide Control

Because herbicide availability and regulation differ between states, we recommend the Washington Department of Ecology website for information on aquatic weed management and herbicides, or contact your county noxious weed coordinator.


For more information

See our Written Findings for more information about fragrant water lily (Nymphaea odorata).

Additional Photos



Fragrant water lily lake infestation


leaves and flower buds


leaf underside, showing reddish-purple color


flower bud and leaves


Blooming flower close up


leaves of fragrant water lily and the native watershield, Brasenia schreberi, with more oval leaves




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