Are pond lilies and water lilies different plants?

Water lily in the Highlands.
Photograph by Neil Dickie.

Pond lilies and water lilies are different aquatic plants of the Nymphaeaceae family.

It’s easiest to tell the difference between the two by their flowers. Both plants provide shade for creatures and regulate subsurface temperature on hot summer days.

Pond lilies

(Nuphar polysepala)

Photograph by I. Kenpei.

The 4-6 sepals of a pond lily flower form a golden yellow cup. Pond lilies don’t have the splash or colour of water lilies, but that doesn’t mean they’re not impressive.

Pond lilies are indigenous to Vancouver Island and have been in regional lakes for thousands of years.

Water lilies

(Nymphaea odorata)

Photograph by Neil Dickie.

Water lilies vary from white, pink, red, blue, to pale yellow, but are never the same golden yellow as pond lilies. Water lily blossoms open during the day and close in the evening. They are not indigenous to Vancouver Island, and have usually been introduced for their aesthetic value.

Under the leaves of both pond lilies and water lilies are long underwater leaf stalks called petioles, which send nutrients down to tough underground structures in the lake bottom called rhizomes.

In the winter, the rhizomes lie dormant, waiting to send up new shoots in the spring.

Learn much more in the full Lakes of Victoria, BC guidebook!

Cover of Lakes of Victoria, BC.

In the full guidebook, discover where to:

  • Walk: enjoy lakeside strolls & boardwalks.
  • Hike: discover single-track trails & scenic views.
  • Swim: find the best beaches to soak up the sun.
  • Fish: learn about stocking trends and piers.
  • Paddle: explore shorelines, and hidden bays.
  • Bike: plan your next route and hit the trails.

Along the way you will meet the animals and plants that call these lakes and watersheds home, unearth forgotten place names, and learn stories of days past.

The book is full of useful maps, access information, and local trivia to get you started on your next family day or great adventure.

From locals to visitors, everyone will learn something new about the freshwater lakes that bring Victoria to life.