White water-lily

White Water-lily

©Philip Precey

White water-lily

Scientific name: Nymphaea alba
Look for the White water-lily in still and slow-moving water, such as ponds, ditches, lakes and canals. Its lily pads and massive, white flowers float at the water's surface.

Species information


Spread: up to 1.5m

Conservation status


When to see

June to August


The White water-lily is a common plant of still or slow-moving water and grows in ponds, lakes, canals and ditches. It has large, lily-pad leaves that are up to 30cm across, and grows in water up to 5m deep; the leaves and flowers float at the surface, while the rest of the plant is submerged, growing from the mud at the bottom. It flowers during the summer, from June to August, the blooms opening up in the sunshine.
Water-lilies are good plants to add to a wildlife-friendly pond, providing shelter for frogs and early nectar for insects.

How to identify

The White water-lily has rounded, leathery, floating leaves. It has large, white flowers that are sometimes tinged with pink and are borne on stalks just above the water. The Yellow water-lily has more oval leaves than the White-water lily, and a smaller, cupped, yellow flower.


Found throughout the UK, although absent from northern Scotland and South West England.

Did you know?

The White water-lily produces the UK's largest flower, which grows up to 20cm in diameter and comprises 20 to 25 petals.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many wetland nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.