Nymphaea alba

Common water lily

Also known as:

European white water lily

Family: Nymphaeaceae

Origin: Eurasia, North Africa

A common water lily with two leaves floating on the surface of water.
The leaves are almost round to elliptical in shape, with a deep sinus. Up to 30cm in diameter.
Photo credit: Ian Dodkins, Flora of Northern Ireland website

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • Not a legally declared pest

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Floating aquatic herb. Rhizomes are stout and < 6 cm wide. Stems are spongy and < 3 m long. Leaves are round, leathery, < 30 cm in diameter with green/pink undersides and distinct midrib.

Flowers are < 20 cm in diameter, white/pale pink with yellow centres and floating or held just above the water's surface. Hybrid flowers may be orange/pink/red/cream.

What you need to know

Although common water lily is not a legally declared pest plant, it may still be invasive in some situations. Consider lower risk alternatives for your garden, such as native plants.


Still or slow-moving water bodies at depth of < 2 m, lakes, dams, ponds, ornamental pools.


Seeds dispersed by water and possibly animals. Vegetative spread from rhizomes and rhizome fragments. Human-mediated dispersal through deliberate plantings.

Impact on environment

Can alter habitat for aquatic plant and bird species and displace native submerged plants.


Site Management

Follow up treated areas 3 times per year.

Recommended approaches

Physical control

Method: Dig out.

Plant parts requiring disposal: All parts.

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill if practical.


Biocontrol is currently not available for this species.

Community agrichemical control recommendations

Certified Handler/Experienced agrichemical user: Foliar spray emergent foliage with 300ml glyphosate green per 10L of water.

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

Common water lily pads scattered over the top of a water's surface.
It prefers still and slow flowing water bodies.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
The cross section of a common water lily root.
Common water lily can be spread from rhizomes and rhizome fragments.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow