What Eats Water Lilies?

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Water lilies are flowering, aquatic plants that come in a variety of bloom colors. Water lilies depend on visiting insects to pollinate flowers. However, some insect pests attack water lilies. Several animals also like eating these plants.


The black aphid and aquatic leaf beetle both feed on water lilies, according to Colorado State University Extension. Animals such as beavers, ducks and deer also eat parts of the water lily. Fish, such as grass carp, sometimes eat water lilies as well.


Aphids suck sap from plant tissue, leaving water lilies yellow or brown with distorted shapes. Aquatic leaf beetles chew holes in the leaves, causing stippling. Larger animals eat water lily leaves, seeds or roots. Heavy feeding that removes most of the leaf may damage water lilies, especially over the course of two to three years.


In a pond garden, keep aphids at bay by spraying lilies with a strong stream of water. Remove aquatic leaf beetle larvae by hand. In both cases, remove severely infested plants to avoid spreading. Put up fencing or plant additional preferred plants as a deterrent to other animals. Contact your local county extension agency or department of natural resources regarding trapping, removing or killing larger water garden pests, such as the muskrat.

Advice – What is eating my waterlily leaves?

Pond pests that eat and damage water lily leaves

The problem is visual from outside the pond but to find the answer you need to look at or under the affected waterlily leaf.

China Mark Moth

Pupa case on underside of leafpupa case and pupachina mark moth caterpillar emergingChina Mark Moth adult

1. Some large neat holes you find on the edge of your waterlily leaves could be a sign of infestation by the caterpillars of brown china mark moth and all the affected leaves should be removed and burned.
2. The caterpillar will cut holes in the leaves on the edges or centrally where the stem joins the leaf. These pieces will be placed on the underside of the leaf to cover the pupa which will develop under its own patch of bitten off leaf.
3. The pupa can be exposed by lifting off the patch. if you are to control this infestation you should destroy the pupa.
4. You are not finding/removing the adult by doing this but you are removing future generations from the pond so this has to be regarded as a long term plan.

Or: Pond Snails

pond snail eggs on underside of leafGreat pointed snail and Ramshorn snailPointed pond snail damage

1. Waterlily leaves may also be disfigured by the Great Pond Snail – (the pointed shelled snail not the circular shell of the ramshorn snail). Above is a photo of the jelly capsules containing snail eggs on the back of a waterlily leaf – imagine how fast the snail population can increase with this many jelly capsules on a single leaf.
2. These can be removed from the leaf with a thumbnail to keep the population under control or by removing the whole leaf to the compost bin.
3. To remove snails from your pond – float a juicy lettuce leaf on the water surface and next morning carefully lift it off and you will bring with it lots of pond snails grazing happily.

Or: Waterlily Beetle

waterlily beetle damage

1. The Waterlily beetle and its larvae eat long slit like holes in waterlily leaves or chew around the leaf edge – the adults are 1/4″ long(5mm) and are yellow/brown.
2. They emerge from winter hiding places in nearby foliage in May and lay small white eggs on the top surface of the waterlily leaves.
3. To kill these eggs drown the plant leaves for a few days under the water or spray a dilute mixture of washing up liquid over the infected leaves. (10ml washing up liquid in 250ml water) Apparently a mix of cooking oil in water will do the same job.

Or: Waterlily Aphid

waterlily aphid

1. Aphids may also affect soft and succulent leaves of the water lily. They are minute – 2mm in size and brown/black and will suck the sap from the leaf.
2. The adults and eggs overwinter on Prunus plants – Cherries, Plums and Blackthorn. They will hatch in Spring until mid summer when they can fly to the waterlily plant.
3. The leaf will become yellow and often distorted which allows the aphids to infest the underside of the leaf too.
4. As the plants are in baskets – drown the aphids by dropping the basket to the bottom of the pond for two or three days.
5. Spray the waterlily leaf with the detergent mixture described above and they will no longer be able to fly or mate but for better long term results spray the host tree in December with Winter Tree Wash by Growing Success or Vitax to reduce the number of overwintering eggs.


waterlilies, pond pests & caterpillars

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks:
White Water-lily (Nymphaea odorata ssp. odorata)

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks: White Water-lily is a floating aquatic plant common in quiet waters of marshes, ponds, and slow-moving streams in the Adirondacks. Its circular floating leaves are green on top and purple on the underside. White Water-lily (Nymphaea odorata) on the Heron Marsh Trail at the Paul Smith’s College VIC (14 July 2019).

White Water-lily (Nymphaea odorata ssp. odorata) is an aquatic wildflower which produces showy white flowers in early summer in marshes, ponds, and other wetlands in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

This plant is part of the family Nymphaeaceae, which consists of two genera.

  • The genus Nuphar has four species, including the Yellow Pond Lily (Nuphar variegata) – another aquatic plant commonly seen growing in the Adirondacks in the same habitat as White Water-lilies.
  • The plant of interest here (White Water-lily) is part of the second genus: Nymphaea. The subspecies that grows in our area is Nymphaea odorata ssp. odorata. There is another subspecies – Tuberous White Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata ssp. tuberosa), but it does not occur in the Adirondacks. Authors disagree on how these two subspecies should be categorized.

The genus name (Nymphaea) is a reference to water nymphs, evoking the plant’s watery habitat. The species name (odorata) derives from the fragrance of the flower.

Other common names for this plant include Water Lily, Waterlily, White Water Lily, White Waterlily, American White Waterlily, American White Water-lily, Fragrant Water-lily, Fragrant White Water Lily, Fragrant White Water-lily, Sweet Water-lily, Sweet-scented Water Lily, and Sweet-scented White Waterlily. Many of these names include a reference to both the color and the fragrance of the flowers.

Identification of White Water-lily

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks: White Water-lily flowers have snowy white, tapering petals surrounding a group of bright yellow stamens. White Water-lily (Nymphaea odorata) on the Black Pond Trail at the Paul Smith’s College VIC (14 August 2019).

White Water-lilies are aquatic plants growing from a fleshy rhizomeRhizome: The modified subterranean stem of a plant that sends out roots and shoots from its nodes. Rhizomes are also called creeping rootstalks and rootstocks.. The plants can form dense colonies in shallow water, sometimes completely covering the surface of the water with leaves.

The leaves of White Water-lily float on the surface of the water. They are nearly circular with a deep slit at the base. The leaves are four to ten inches in diameter, with smoothSmooth leaf edges do not have any teeth. marginsThe structure of the leaf’s edge., meaning that the edges of the leaves are not toothedToothed: Leaves which have a saw-toothed edge.. The upper surface of the leaf is green and somewhat glossy, while the underside is often purplish.

White Water-lily flowers have twenty to thirty white tapering petalsPetals: Modified leaves that surround the reproductive parts of flowers. Petals are often brightly colored or unusually shaped to attract pollinators.. They also have forty or more bright yellow stamensStamen: The male part of the flower, made up of the filament and anther. in the center and a whorl of four green to purplish sepalsSepal: One of the usually separate, green parts that surround and protect the flower bud and extend from the base of a flower after it has opened. at the base. The flowers, which are three to five inches wide, are fragrant and (like the leaves) float on the surface of the water. The flowers are usually open in the morning, but typically close by mid-afternoon and remain closed at night.

In the Adirondack Park, White Water-lilies typically bloom from early summer through August. A tally for the upland Adirondack areas compiled by Michael Kudish, based on data collected from the early seventies to the early nineties, indicates that the White Water-lily was in flower from 18 July to 21 August, with a median bloom date of 27 July. Data from more recent years suggests somewhat earlier bloom times, starting in late June.

The fruit of White Water-lily is spongy, berry-like and green. It contains oval seeds with structures that facilitate dispersal by water.

Uses of White Water-lily

Although the young leaves of White Water-lily reportedly can be boiled and served as a vegetable, the main human use of this plant appears to have been medicinal. Native Americans used it as a herbal remedy for a variety of ailments, including colds, tuberculosis, bronchial complaints, toothaches, and mouth sores.

Wildlife Value of White Water-lily

Birds of the Adirondacks: Wood Ducks are among the bird species that consume White Water-lily seeds. Wood Ducks on the Hulls Falls Road beaver pond (29 June 2018).

White Water-lily is of significant value for a variety of wetland-dwelling wildlife, both directly as a food source and indirectly as an important part of wetland ecology. The plant’s flat, floating leaves comprise one of the most populous micro-habitats in the pond environment, providing resting platforms for dragonflies and damselflies.

White Water-lily is a food source for a number of insects. The abundant pollen of the flowers attracts a wide variety of insects, including bees, flies, and beetles.

  • Other insects, such as Waterlily Thrips and Water Lily Leafcutters, feed on the leaves and petioles.
  • The larvae of Water Lily Beetles and Waterlily Leaf Beetles feed on either the pollen or the leaves. Adult Waterlily Leaf Beetles relish the leaves.
  • Water Lily Planthoppers reportedly eat any part of the plant that sticks up above the water line.

The seeds of White Water-lily provide a food source for several bird species. Wetland birds that consume the seeds include Wood Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, American Black Ducks, Lesser Scaups, and Sandhill Cranes.

Wildlife of the Adirondacks: Aquatic vegetation (including White Water-lilies and Yellow Pond Lilies) makes up a large portion of the diet of the omnivorous Snapping Turtle. Snapping Turtle at the Paul Smith’s College VIC (7 June 2016).

White Water-lilies are also important to wetland-dwelling amphibians and reptiles. Snapping Turtles reportedly use the plants as both food and cover. The seeds of White Water-lily are also consumed by Eastern Painted Turtles, although they make up only a minor component of their diet.

Mink Frogs are usually found in environments where there are many White Water-lilies, since they use them as protection from predators. They also feed on the spiders, snails, dragonflies, and beetles found on the lily pads.

Mammals, too, feed on this plant. The rhizomes reportedly are frequently eaten by Muskrats; this plant is said to be one of their major foods. The plant is said to make up five to ten percent of the diet of the largest of the Adirondack’s rodents, the American Beaver. White-tailed Deer sometimes wade into the water to feed on White Water-lily foliage. Waterlily pads are also said to be a principal item in the summer diet of Moose.

Distribution of White Water-lily

Sources differ on the distribution of White Water-lilies, in part because of difficulties in distinguishing the two different subspecies. Our subspecies of White Water-lily (Nymphaea odorata subsp. odorata) is found mainly in the eastern parts of the United States and the southern regions of Canada’s eastern provinces, with some populations in the western parts of the US and Canada (including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia).

In New York State, our subspecies is found in most counties in the eastern two-thirds of the state, plus some of the south western counties. White Water-lilies occur in all counties within the Adirondack Park Blue Line.

Habitat of White Water-lily

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks: White Water-lilies are wetland plants which can be found in marshes and slow-moving streams, as well as along the shallow edges of lakes and ponds. White Water-lilies (Nymphaea odorata) on Heron Marsh at the Paul Smith’s College VIC (14 June 2019).

White Water-lilies are aquatic plants that can be found in marshes and slow-moving streams, as well as along the shallow edges of lakes and ponds. This plant can grow in water depths up to about five or six feet.

In the Adirondack Mountains, White Water-lilies are found in several wetland ecological communities:

  • Bog Lake/Pond
  • Deep Emergent Marsh
  • Eutrophic Pond
  • Marsh Headwater Stream
  • Oxbow Lake/Pond

A Deep Emergent Marsh, for instance, is a marsh community flooded by waters ranging from six inches to 6.6 feet.

  • In the shallower areas, emergent aquatic plants, such as Pickerelweed and cattails, flourish.
  • Floating-leaved aquatic plants, including White Water-lily and Yellow Pond Lily, are found in somewhat deeper water.
  • Characteristic birds in this ecological community include Swamp Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, and American Bittern.
  • Characteristic amphibians and reptiles include American Bullfrogs, Snapping Turtles, and Eastern Painted Turtles. American Bullfrogs are heard more often than seen; listen for their deep bass bellows. Snapping Turtles, who spend most of their time in water, are most often seen when they move ashore in search of suitable nesting spots. Look for Eastern Painted Turtles basking in the sun in the reeds on the margins of the water.

One of the most convenient places to observe White Water-lilies is on Heron Marsh at the Paul Smith’s College VIC. The Heron Marsh Trail features several overlooks that provide close-up views of this plant, as does the floating bridge across Heron Marsh on the Woods and Waters Trail. White Water-lily can also be seen from the Black Pond Trail, in the slow-moving waters of the Black Pond outlet.

Michael Kudish. Adirondack Upland Flora: An Ecological Perspective (The Chauncy Press, 1992), pp. 23-28, 106.

New York Flora Association. New York Flora Atlas. Nymphaea odorata Aiton ssp. odorata. Retrieved 6 February 2018.

United States Department of Agriculture. The Plants Database. American White Waterlily. Nymphaea odorata Aiton ssp. odorata. Retrieved 6 February 2018.

Flora of North America. Nymphaea odorata subsp. odorata. Retrieved 6 February 2018.

NatureServe Explorer. Online Encyclopedia of Life. American Water-lily. Nymphaea odorata ssp. odorata. Retrieved 6 February 2018.

Margaret B. Gargiullo. A Guide to Native Plants of the New York City Region (New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, 2007), p. 122.

Native Plant Trust. Go Botany. White Water-lily. Nymphaea odorata Ait. Retrieved 17 December 2019.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Bog Lake/Pond. Retrieved 17 December 2019.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Deep Emergent Marsh. Retrieved 17 December 2019.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Marsh Headwater Stream. Retrieved 17 December 2019.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Oxbow Lake/Pond. Retrieved 17 December 2019.

New York State. Adirondack Park Agency. Preliminary List of Species Native Within the Adirondack Park Listed Alphabetically by Scientific Name and Sorted by Habit. Volume 1. Updated 10.23.2006, p. 61. Retrieved 26 January 2017.

USA National Phenology Network. Nature’s Notebook. Nymphaea odorata. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

Connecticut Botanical Society. Fragrant Water-lily. Nymphaea odorata Ait. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

University of Wisconsin. Flora of Wisconsin. Nymphaea odorata Aiton. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

Minnesota Wildflowers. Nymphaea odorata. American White Water-lily. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

Illinois Wildflowers. Fragrant Water Lily. Nymphaea odorata. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

Illinois Wildflowers. Vertebrate Animal & Plant Database. Nymphaea spp. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

Illinois Wildflowers. Plant-Feeding Insect Database. Nymphaea odorata. Fragrant Water Lily. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. American White Waterlily. Nymphaea odorata ssp. odorata. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

Anne McGrath. Wildflowers of the Adirondacks (EarthWords, 2000), p. 18, Plate 9.

Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny. A Field Guide to Wildflowers. Northeastern and North-central North America (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968), pp. 6-7.

Doug Ladd. North Woods Wildflowers (Falcon Publishing, 2001), p. 199.

Lawrence Newcomb. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (Little Brown and Company, 1977), pp. 358-359.

Meiyin Wu & Dennis Kalma. Wetland Plants of the Adirondacks: Herbaceous Plants and Aquatic Plants (Trafford Publishing, 2011), p. 153.

David M. Brandenburg. Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America (Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2010), p. 357.

Timothy Coffey. The History and Folklore of North American Wildflowers (FactsOnFile, 1993), pp. 6-7.

William Carey Grimm. The Illustrated Book of Wildflowers and Shrubs (Stackpole Books, 1993), pp. 90-91.

National Audubon Society. Field Guide to North American Wildflowers. Eastern Region. (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), p. 642, Plate 61.

William K. Chapman et al. Wildflowers of New York in Color (Syracuse University Press, 1998), pp. 28-29.

John Eastman, “American Black Duck,” The Eastman Guide to Birds: Natural History Accounts for 150 North American Species. Kindle Edition. (Stackpole Books, 2012).

John Eastman, “Greater and Lesser Scaups,” The Eastman Guide to Birds: Natural History Accounts for 150 North American Species. Kindle Edition. (Stackpole Books, 2012).

John Eastman, “Common Goldeneye,” The Eastman Guide to Birds: Natural History Accounts for 150 North American Species. Kindle Edition. (Stackpole Books, 2012).

Plants for a Future. Nymphaea odorata – Aiton. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

Steven Foster and James A. Duke. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), pp. 21.

Lee Allen Peterson. A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Eastern and Central North America (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977), pp. 22-23.

Bradford Angier. Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Revised and Updated. (Stackpole Books, 2008), pp. 8-9.

University of Michigan. Native American Ethnobotany. A Database of Foods, Drugs, Dyes and Fibers of Native American Peoples, Derived from Plants. American White Waterlily. Nymphaea odorata Ait. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Birds of North America. Subscription web site. Wood Duck, Common Goldeneye, Sandhill Crane, American Black Duck. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

Butterflies and Moths of North America. Watermilfoil Leafcutter Moth. Parapoynx allionealis; Waterlily Leafcutter Moth. Elophila obliteralis. Retrieved 8 February 2018.

Iowa State University. BugGuide. Megamelus davisi; Polypedilum braseniae; and Parapoynx allionealis. Retrieved 8 February 2018.

University of Wisconsin. College of Letters & Science Field Station. Waterlily Leaf Beetle (Family Chrysomelidae). 9 July 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2018.

University of Wisconsin. College of Letters & Science Field Station. Water Lily Leaf Beetle II (Family Chrysomelidae). February 14, 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2018.

University of Wisconsin. College of Letters & Science Field Station. Water Lily Planehopper (Family Delphacidae). March 11, 2014. February 14, 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2018.

University of Michigan. Animal Diversity Web. Lithobates septentrionalis. Mink Frog. Retrieved 8 February 2018.

Allen J. Coombes. Dictionary of Plant Names (Timber Press, 1994), pp. 126-127.

Charles H. Peck. Plants of North Elba (Bulletin of the New York State Museum, Volume 6, Number 28, June 1899), p. 76. Retrieved 22 February 2017.

Stephen H. Jenkins and Peter E. Busher, “Castor Canadensis,” Mammalian Species, No. 120, pp. 1-8.

United States Department of Agriculture. Fire Effects Information System (FEIS). Alces americanus. Retrieved 30 March 2017.

United States Department of Agriculture. Fire Effects Information System (FEIS). Species Reviews. Ondatra zibethicus. Retrieved 30 March 2017.

United States Department of Agriculture. Fire Effects Information System (FEIS). Species Reviews. Castor canadensis. Retrieved 29 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.

Patrick D. Moldowan et al, “Diet and Feeding Behaviour of Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina) and Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario,” Canadian Field Naturalist, Volume 129, Number 4 (December 2015), pp. 403-408. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

Donald J. Padgett, Jeffrey J. Carboni and Daniel J. Schepis, “The Dietary Composition of Chrysemys picta picta (Eastern Painted Turtles) with Special Reference to the Seeds of Aquatic Macrophytes,” Northeastern Naturalist, Volume 17, Number. 2 (2010), pp. 305-312.

Carl H. Ernest and Jeffrey E. Lovich. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Second Edition (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), pp. 113-137.

Wildflowers of the Adirondack Park

Water Lily Leaf Beetle II (Family Chrysomelidae)

Salutations, BugFans,

The BugLady never met a water lily she didn’t admire, and as she takes (inevitably-over-exposed) pictures of the flowers, she always looks to see who’s visiting the plant. In 2013, while she was photographing the magnificent water lily planthopper (Megamelus davisi), she also found an adult, larva and pupa of some sort of Chrysomelid (leaf beetle) on the water lily leaves, and later a pupa with a cluster fly perched on it (with no evil intent—cluster flies are nectar-feeders). That same year, the BugLady wrote an article about a beetle in the genus Donacia, also in the family Chrysomelidae, also called the Water Lily Leaf Beetle.

Chrysomelidae is a very large, diverse family of beetles that are vegetarians both as larvae (roots, stems, leaves) and as adults (leaves, flower parts). They often target specific plants and are named after them. Some are agricultural pests and some are biological controls of pest species. There are some 1,900 species of Chrysomelids in North America and 35,000 species worldwide, and there may be an equal number awaiting discovery.

Water Lily Leaf Beetle

So, one day, the BugLady Googled “Chrysomelid, water lily.” Ain’t the internet grand! The Water Lily Leaf Beetle du jour turns out to be Galerucella nymphaeae, formerly known as Pyrrhalta nymphaeae. It’s found throughout North America, wherever its host plants grow, and in northern Europe. Evans, in Beetles of Eastern North America, describes its range as “Europe; widely established in North America.”

It feeds primarily on water lilies (Nuphar and Nymphaea) and smartweeds (Polygonium); each of the two distinct plant families presents unique feeding challenges, and it has been suggested that there are two, specialized races of WLLBs, with slightly different sizes, colors and jaw widths. A study in which larvae were mixed and matched with either food plant showed that not all host plants are created equal—beetles preferred, grew faster on, and had higher survival rates on their natal plants. Selection is reinforced by the fact that they mate and lay eggs there.

The BugLady’s first (stray) thought, when she saw the pupa on the water lily leaf, was, “Hmm—wonder how that got there.” Her second thought was, “Well, Duh (head smack), it hatched there!” And, her third thought was, “pretty safe spot to grow up.” Alas, not so. The beetles’ feeding—they chew little holes and trenches into the top surface of the leaf—hastens the decay of the leaf and makes it, like a boat with holes, less buoyant. A leaf that’s just one-quarter eaten can become unusable, and they may literally eat their island out from under themselves. This happens sooner rather than later if there are several larvae present, and the only escape is trekking to an adjacent leaf.

Female WLLBs lay their eggs above the water, a few per leaf, and they prefer to oviposit on younger leaves because these leaves allow optimal weight gain for their offspring. The eggs hatch about a week later, and the clock is ticking. Since the average leaf lasts less than a month and a larva needs more time than that to mature, emigration is a given; no matter what the population density, and the larvae start spreading to different leaves at a young age. Grazing/defoliation causes some kinds of plants to produce more leaves, but this isn’t true of water lilies.

There are probably two generations per year, with the second overwintering as adults.

Adults are listed as “semiaquatic,” they’re found on leaves around the edges of shallow wetlands. How do they get around? Researcher Haripirya Mukundarajan, who studied the physics of the beetles’ movement over the water, calls it “waterskiing.” The WLLB lifts its middle pair of legs, raises its elytra (wing covers), angles its body upwards, and uses its flying wings to scoot along the surface film at a half-meter per second (500 km/hour in human terms). It’s reminiscent of a diving duck running across the water in order to gain lift, but the beetle has no intention of taking to the air. The beetles, says Ms. Mukundarajan “move so fast that they interact with the ripples generated by their own motion, which increases drag and causes a bumpy ride. It’s as if surface tension acts as a pogo stick that the beetle is jumping on.” According to the study, the beetles’ strong wings “allow them to produce a lot of lift while counteracting drag from the surface. And their legs are covered with tiny hairs that repel water while a claw at the tip is hydrophilic , allowing them to pin themselves to the surface of the water. This structure is critical for the beetle to maintain its level exactly on the water surface.” See the video below from the New Scientist. Practical applications? According to the article, “understanding the motion of the beetles could help us develop robots that move across water quickly. Many current designs are based on water striders, which move more slowly.”

The WLLB comes from a distinguished lineage. According to, the “beetles have been raised in the lab on Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria),” and two European Galerucella (“Cella”) beetles, Galerucella pusilla and Galerucella calmariensis, are presently being raised for release on purple loose strife on these shores.

And then there’s water chestnut, an invasive aquatic plant in Northeastern North America whose seed pod you do not want to encounter while barefoot. The WLLB has been suggested as a control for Water chestnut. In a study to determine whether Galerucella birmanica, a related beetle from Asia, should be introduced to control water chestnut, the native beetle acted as a testing surrogate. Turned out that Galerucella nymphaeae larvae were eaten with gusto by backswimmers and by a ladybug called the spotted or the pink spotted (but not the pink-spotted) lady beetle, preventing larval populations from rising to the levels needed for biocontrol. It didn’t help that while larval Galerucella nymphaeae will feed naturally on water chestnut, their survival rate there is very low. Water chestnut leaves are small and get eaten faster, which results in more frequent leaf-switching, which results in more larval drownings. Also, adults reared as larvae on the exotic water chestnut reverted to native plants when given a chance. Back to the drawing board (but, the BugLady is heartened that these experiments were carried out, rather than simply importing the Asian species and throwing it out into the field to see what would happen, like we did in the bad old days).

A European study painted a picture of coots, swimming among the water lily leaves, picking the beetles/pupae/larvae off of the leaves.

The BugLady

By Sandrine Ceurstemont

Watch me move

Haripriya Mukundarajan

This beetle is one extreme waterskiier. It skims across the surface of water so fast that it seems to vanish.

Haripriya Mukundarajan from Stanford University and her colleagues have filmed water lily beetles (Galerucella nymphaeae) in the lab to figure out how they stay on the surface while travelling at speeds of up to 0.5 metres per second –which scaled for size would be equivalent to a human travelling at about 500km/h.

“It’s one of the fastest horizontal speeds ever seen in an insect moving on water but nobody has looked at the physics behind it,” she says.

When a beetle “takes off”, it lifts its middle legs, then angles its body upwards before vigorously flapping its wings to launch itself horizontally, travelling up to a few metres forwards.

The beetles move so fast that they interact with the ripples generated by their own motion, which increases drag and causes a bumpy ride. “It’s as if surface tension acts as a pogo stick that the beetle is jumping on,” says Mukundarajan.

Her team also found that skimming across water expends more energy than flying in air. Water lily beetles are also agile in air, but only fly occasionally, for example when threatened by predators.

They could be moving on water rather than in the air because they feed on water lily leaves floating on ponds, say the researchers.

Elegant solutions

The team also discovered that the beetles are well adapted for gliding on water. Compared with flies and mosquitoes for example, their wings are stronger and allow them to produce a lot of lift while counteracting drag from the surface.

And their legs are covered with tiny hairs that repel water while a claw at the tip is hydrophilic, allowing them to pin themselves to the surface of the water. “This structure is critical for the beetle to maintain its level exactly on the water surface,” says Mukundarajan.

“I’m surprised that they have something this elegant,” says Jake Socha from Virgina Tech in Blacksburg, who has previously uncovered the aerodynamics of flying snakes. “It suggests that skimming is evolutionarily important.”

Understanding the motion of the beetles could help us develop robots that move across water quickly. Many current designs are based on water striders, which move more slowly.

Mukundarajan also thinks studying the beetle’s wings could give insight into a phenomenon that occurs when an aircraft is flying low. “The beetles flatten their wings when they are close to the water,” she says. “This could create tiny vortices that reflect off the surface to give them a boost.”

Journal reference: Journal of Experimental Biology, DOI: 10.1242/jeb.127829

Read more: Why insects are the real rulers of the world

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  • zoology

Unlike most specimens of the plant kingdom, pests or diseases seldom afflict water lilies. Water gardeners have it easy compared to gardeners who grow roses, veggies, or lawns. Plus, most water lily troubles are superficial and do little permanent harm. Often they may be prevented and controlled with a watchful eye and careful maintenance.

Here are the most common, from big to small. Some may not be a problem at water garden businesses, but might affect your customers. Remember that the key to keep pests from becoming problematic is to regularly monitor the condition of all your aquatics. Then before anything can become a concern, you can nip it in the bud.

Terrestrial Animals

Dogs don’t eat water lilies. However canines cause problems when they go for a dip, blissfully overturning pots. While some dogs can be trained to stay out of the pond, breeds like Labradors have an innate love for water. In those cases some owners solve the problem by giving their lab its own kiddie pool. A harsher solution is the Fido Shock, which delivers a small electrical charge through a wire fence.

The electrical fence can also deter raccoons, who regularly knock over aquatic plant containers. Keep pots away from the pond edges since the raccoons won’t go into deeper water. These critters are very persistent and outwit most devices designed to scare them away. The most effective deterrents are the Fido Shock and the Scarecrow, a sprinkler activated by motion sensor. Move the Scarecrow periodically to increase effectiveness. It also helps to place two at right angles. If deterrents don’t work, check with your animal control departments. Often they’ll provide traps then remove the captured animal. To bait the trap use the unlikely, but extremely successful, delicacy – Twinkies.

Aquatic Fauna

Turtles will eat anything slower than they are and that includes water lilies. Symptoms are lily pads that appear to have been cut with a knife or scissors. The best solution is to relocate the turtle to a more appropriate pond.

Some koi will snack on lilies and root around in pots while others don’t. Until someone figures out why this happens, take precautions to reduce koi damage. Cover the soil in containers with gravel and then with stones–bigger than the largest koi’s mouth. (Some ponders say lava rock is uncomfortable in a koi’s mouth and they’ll avoid it.) Place lilies very close to the surface (3-6?). This prevents koi from grazing in the pot and also gives new leaves a chance to grow.

Butterfly koi usually make better water garden pondmates, as do goldfish and koi raised from babies. Whatever you do, don’t add a single pot of plants into a pond that has been sterile of vegetation. The new diversion will soon become lily salad. Another strategy to protect water lilies is to buy or make a cage around the plants. As a last resort, create an adjacent but separate pond area for the lilies.

Ramshorn and Japanese Trapdoor snails don’t usually harm aquatics since they feed on decaying plant material. However Pond and Apple Snails do feast upon lily pads and other fresh vegetation. A technique to get rid of snails without altering your water chemistry is to place a lettuce leaf or zucchini slice in the pond. Leave it overnight, then remove it and destroy the snails it has attracted. Repeat as needed. Adding snail-eating fish, like the Clown Loach, is another biological control. Potassium permanganate and other specialized chemicals can be used but the biological controls work best in backyard ponds.



The key to controlling aphids is to keep them from ever becoming a problem. As soon as you notice the little buggers, squash them by hand. They usually appear on new growth or older yellowing leaves and may start reproducing in terrestrial plants near the ponds. Although many books recommend washing aphids off leaves so the fish can eat them, this only works for light infestations. You can overflow the pond, spraying hard to flood them out. Repeat every day or two until aphids are under control.

Light oil sprays will suffocate the aphids and are not harmful to fish or plants. Sprays should be repeated every 10 days to be most effective. Mix two parts vegetable oil to eight parts water and a dash of dishwashing detergent. Treat in the evening and rinse off the oil the next morning. A Volck oil spray (5 Tbsp to 1 gal water) also works. Spraying trees and vegetation around the pond as soon as any aphids are detected is the quickest way to prevent an infestation in the pond.

Other environmentally safe controls are available. Diatomaceous earth is a microscopic abrasive that kills the aphids. It can be dusted on the leaves or mixed with water and sprayed. Again, flush the pond of extra residue so it doesn’t harm other pond inhabitants. Blade Runner, Aphid-X, and Herbal Aphid Spray are all made from natural ingredients. A weak solution (1.5%) of insecticidal soap left on for less than an hour also works well.

A very low-tech aphid control strategy is to drown the aphids. This can be done by submerging the plants overnight or by putting some newspaper on top of the leaves and leaving it there for several hours.


Leaf mining midges chew wavy lines in the lily pads. These very small larvae can be handpicked, the leaves can be removed, or the water can be treated with Mosquito Dunks (which contain Bt).

China Mark Moth

This small nondescript brown moth is the water lily’s major pest and is also called the Sandwich Man. It is nocturnal and lays eggs on the underside of floating leaves. After hatching, the larva cuts leaf pieces to make protective sandwiches. They affect water lilies, although the larva also burrows into any floating leaves or debris. They have a two week cycle, so keep a close check for them throughout the growing season.

The mechanical control method, better known as squishing, works well to control an initial outbreak – fish just love the worms. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a natural bacteria, can be used as a spray. Once ingested, it kills the larva but won’t hurt people, pets, or fish. It is the active ingredient in Dipel, Insecticidal Soaps, and Thuricide. As with many sprays, it is best applied at the end of the day (see sidebar). If there is a severe infestation, the best remedy is to remove all affected foliage close to the crown of the plant and destroy it.


Many years ago several varieties of hardy lilies were susceptible to crown rot, a fungal disease. The leaves on affected plants would curl and turn yellow, and buds would rot below the surface. The plant would soon die since the rhizome had rotten away, leaving a stinky mess. Treatment was to thoroughly soak the tuber in a fungicide. However, since the disease is highly contagious the best option was to remove the plant and completely destroy it. Luckily the incidence of this and other fungal diseases has decreased as less susceptible hybrids have been developed.

Natural or Chemical Treatments

Be cautious of all pesticides and always use the least harmful treatment first. If mechanical control (aka squishing by hand) doesn’t work, then try the appropriate insecticidal soaps, sprays, or dusts. These rely upon natural bacteria that target specific organisms, diatomaceous earth, or other natural derivatives. Unlike pesticides, they are usually not harmful to other insects and pond inhabitants. (Unfortunately those based on pyrethrum and rotenone are toxic to frogs and fish.) Numerous environmentally friendly treatments are now available, such as Blade Runner, Herbal Aphid Spray, Dipel, and several Insecticidal Soaps.

If biological controls are unsuccessful and you must resort to a pesticide, follow some simple precautions. Check what the label says about use with fish, pets, and other wildlife. Many products may be safe on terrestrial plants but should never be used in or around the pond. Whenever possible, remove the plant and treat it outside of the pond. After it has been treated, rinse it off and return it to the water garden. Some chemicals might require water changes after treatment if applied in the pond.

Most pesticides and biological controls are best applied at the end of the day. There is less breeze to blow spray to surrounding areas or plants; there is less chance the spray will burn or damage the plant; there is less opportunity for UV to degrade the effective ingredients; and absorption of the active ingredients into the plant’s system is usually higher.

An Ounce of Prevention Provides a Big ROI

• Before adding any new plants to your pond, closely examine them for signs of pests, especially if you’ve had infestations from a particular grower. Look at both sides of the leaves and in the crevices where stems and leaves overlap. Remove anything suspicious. You can also soak the plant to kill unwanted pests and parasites. Plants can be soaked in a potassium permanganate solution (4-6 Tbsp in 12-13 gal water) for 1-2 hours.

• Regularly fertilize plants and divide them when overcrowded. Since insects and diseases attack sickly and stressed plants, thriving plants usually do not have pests.

• Trim off all old and damaged foliage from lilies and marginals. This weaker growth is often where insects thrive. Removing dying leaves eliminates their food source, helps rejuvenate the plant, and reduces material that falls on the bottom to decay. A carefully trimmed lily displays beautifully and sells quickly, plus it’s usually disease and pest-free.

• When adding water to your ponds, be sure to spray all the plant foliage, especially if it hasn’t rained lately. This cleans the plants plus washes off pests before they can become a problem.

(Okay you should know what ROI means but just in case – Return on Investment)

Nymphaea odorata

Water lilies have floating leaves. There are about 40 species of water lily in the world, plus numerous hybrids and varieties. Some water lily species prefer southerly warmth and are found in temperate and semi-tropical zones, some prefer the cold and are found only in northern Canada and Alaska.

This species, fragrant water lily (Nymphaea odorata), occurs from Puerto Rico to Alaska and from California to Quebec (Kartesz 1999). Its many subspecies and varieties may be found floating in ponds, lakes and sluggish streams just about everywhere in North America.

Water lily leaves are nearly circular in shape. They are notched to the center. Its leaf lobes are pointed. The leaves arise on stalks from long rhizomes in the mud. Fragrant water lily flowers are showy white and aromatic. Flowers of unusual color and shape are characteristic of hybrid water lilies.

Another native water lily species in Florida is the yellow water lily.

When not blooming, water lily might be confused with spatterdock, Nuphar advena. Compare the leaf shapes and flowers.

View the herbarium specimen image from the University of Florida Herbarium Digital Imaging Projects.

For brief control information, see Efficacy of Herbicide Active Ingredients Against Aquatic Weeds by K. Langeland, M. Netherland, and W. Haller.

Hardy Water Lily

Hardy water lily result from crosses between European and North American species. It is an excellent permanent residents of water gardens. Many pools are designed specifically around their culture.

Description of hardy water lily: Hardy water lilies produce round, leathery leaves up to 1 foot across. They can be green or splashed with brown. Their multi-petaled flowers measure up to 12 inches across and come in white, pink, yellow, and red. Many have flowers that change color as they age, and most are lightly scented. The flowers open in the morning and close at night. Unlike tropical water lilies, the flowers of hardy water lilies float on the surface of the water, and the plants grow from rhizomes, not tubers. Ease of care of hardy water lily: Easy.


Growing hardy water lily: To bloom well, hardy water lilies require abundant sunlight (at least 6 hours a day). Plant the rhizome in a large container at a 45 degree angle with only the tip exposed. Set the container in the pool so it is covered with 6 to 18 inches of water (more vigorous varieties can be set in deeper sections of the pool). Fertilize regularly. Remove browned leaves in the fall.

Propagating hardy water lily: By division.

Uses for hardy water lily: Hardy water lilies are grown for their attractive leaves and exotic flowers. They also help reduce algae by shading the water in which they grow. Generally, about half the pond’s surface area should be covered by water lily leaves.

Related varieties of hardy water lily: The selection of hardy water lilies is vast. Some of the better known varieties are Rose Arey, with clear pink flowers starting early in the season; Comanche, with speckled leaves and flowers that change from yellow to coppery bronze as they mature; and Hermine, one of the smallest hardy white lilies — an ideal choice for smaller ponds.

Scientific name of hardy water lily: Nymphaea species

Want more information on gardening and great plants you can grow? Try:

  • Garden Types: There are many ways to cultivate a lush oasis around your home. Read about all the different types of gardens you can create.
  • Gardening: Get great tips on how to keep your garden healthy and thriving.
  • Water Gardens: Learn how to plant a vital water garden to bring new life into your yard or patio space.
  • Water Garden Plants: Find out about stunning options for planting that will make your water garden unique and lovely.

(Last Updated On: August 22, 2011)

waterlily aphid colony on pond-lily pad. Photo by Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University,

One of the things I love about my job is that there’s always something new to learn. And one of the things I appreciate about the Insects in the City News Updates is that it gives me someone to share the things I learn with.

My discovery this week is aquatic aphids. Most long-time gardeners know that aphids are pretty adaptable. Tiny sap-feeders, sometimes erroneously called plant lice, aphids are one of the most common pests of flowers, trees and vegetable gardens. Normally found on stems and leaves, some aphids even go underground to feed on plant roots. Last week I had a question from a local botanical garden about aphids feeding in ponds, on water lilies.

It turns out that at least one species of aphid likes to hang out at the pond–a lot. Rhopalosiphum nymphae, also known as the waterlily aphid, alternates between cool season hosts (trees, like peaches, apricot and almonds in the genus Prunus) and waterlilies, cattails, buttercup and knotweed in late summer. According to colleagues I contacted, these aphids are most likely to be pests in later summer and early fall, when they can cause leaves to brown and dessicate–although often their damage coincides with the time when plants are beginning to die for the winter. Based on collective wisdom of my entomology friends, the best solution is to “swish the leaves” in the water or physically wash them off with a stiff stream of water. Presumably this works best in ponds with fish or other aquatic predators who ensure that a floating aphid’s life is short.

In late fall, winged adult waterlily aphids leave their aquatic homes to more protected sites on fruit trees. There the females lay eggs, the only stage to survive the winter, in cracks in the bark of the trees. Come spring the aphids, known now as “reddish-brown plum aphids,” go through multiple generations feeding on sap from the trees. Then in mid- to late summer, it’s back to the pond.

According to the comprehensive USDA Technical Bulletin 1870 on arthropod pests of aquatic plants, waterlily aphids readily walk on the surface of the pond and can crawl down emergent plant parts to feed underwater. Specialized “hairs” on their bodies trap and hold air while underwater, allowing them to make this remarkable habitat shift. Reproduction can be rapid, literally blanketing plants. The bulletin notes that at least in some cases the waterlily aphid can be extremely destructive in aquatic gardens and nurseries and is known to transmit at least five plant viruses.

Contrary to what you might find on the Internet, it’s not a good idea to use malathion or other common aphicides on aquatic plants. Not many insecticides are labeled for use on aquatic plants for the simple reason most insecticides are highly toxicity to fish and other aquatic invertebrates. Soaps or oils might be used safely by removing the plants temporarily from the water, spraying and rinsing them, and returning them back quickly. But this seems as much or more work than “swishing”. If Prunus trees are growing near your pond, there might be some value to treating the trees (as long as they are not to close to the water) with a soil-applied systemic insecticide like imidacloprid. To my knowledge, however, this approach is yet to be validated by research.

So thanks for letting me share my recently acquired knowledge about aquatic aphids. Now if it doesn’t cool down soon, I think I might just join these little guys in the water.

Pest and Life Cycle – (Rhopalosiphum nymphaeae) Aphids overwinter as eggs on fruit trees, usually members of the Prunus genus. They hatch in spring as wingless females and keep reproducing. With the onset of warmer weather some of the females develop wings and migrate to feed on other plants, such as water lilies. They travel back to the plants they overwinter on late in the season and lay fertilized eggs for next year’s generation. Waterlily Aphid also feeds on marginal plants such as Typha (Cattail), Sagittaria (Arrowhead) and Pontederia (Pickerel Weed) and is capable of walking on the surface of the water.

Symptoms – Waterlily Aphids are sucking insects which attack both leaves and flower stems (particularly those above the water surface) and may cause premature yellowing, distortion or stunted growth. They are even capable of feeding underwater by crawling down stems and trapping air with specialized hairs on their bodies.

Management – Knock the aphids off plant parts using a hard spray from the garden hose. Once they are in the water, Koi and Goldfish with readily feed on them. If you do not have any, consider purchasing a few inexpensive feeder fish (also good for eating mosquito larvae) for this purpose. Do not use pesticides or oil-based products in your pond (particularly those with Pyrethrin, which is highly toxic to fish), as these can adversely affect the aquatic environment. If only a few leaves are affected, they can be removed entirely and discarded.

Prevention – 1. Monitor your waterlilies, marginals and plants around your pond frequently, as it is much easier to deal with a minor infestation. 2. Treat nearby fruit trees (particularly Prunus fruits such as cherry and plum) with dormant oil to kill overwintering aphid eggs.

How to Get Rid of Lily Pads in Ponds & Lakes 2020 (Most Effective Tools)

3) Cutting Lilies

Typically conducted on smaller water bodies, such as in ponds, you can cut water lilies just below the water line using shears or an aquatic weed whacker. However, this is very temporary and will need to be repeated several times during the year, as it won’t kill off the rhizomes and the lilies will continue to grow. You’ll also have to remove any of the dead vegetation from the water to prevent oxygen depletion and algae growth. The perk here is that there is little to no impact to your fish or water quality, and it’s much easier work in comparison to manual pulling and raking, especially if using a specialized aquatic weed cutter.

4) Creating Shade

A fairly simple control method, shading involves placing a large piece of black plastic sheeting over the area of lily pads. This will prevent sunlight from getting through, and over time the plants will die. However, rhizomes are fairly hardy and can exist in dormancy for a time, meaning there is potential for the lilies to recover after using this method. This may be more successful when used in conjunction with other control methods. You also shouldn’t use this technique if lily pads are present over a substantial part of the water body, as too much shade from the cover can negatively impact fish and any desirable vegetation that is present. If you’re trying to control lily pads in a garden pond, installing a shade sail can help to greatly reduce their growth rate while you actively work to remove them with other methods.

5) Plastic or Gravel Lining

Installing a durable liner or thick (several inch) layer of gravel or similar substrate on the bottom of your lake or pond will help effectively control most types of water weeds, including lily pads. Keep in mind that some species of fish and waterfowl will resultantly not be able to use this area for spawning or nesting, so survey the area and don’t line any sections where you notice spawning or nesting occurring.

6) Mechanical Control (Mowers/Cutters)

If your pond or lake has a well-established lily pad population, you may need to resort to heavier duty mechanical removal methods. Bulldozers, aquatic cutters, and aquatic mowers are all effective approaches that provide quick and long-term results, but in small water bodies like ponds fish will need to be removed to prevent adversely impacting them. In a larger lake, the fish will ideally be able to temporarily seek shelter elsewhere in the water

7) Pond Fish!

Some fish species love munching on water lilies, and while this biological control method won’t eliminate a lily pad population, it will help to keep it in check. As such, using fish is best suited for simply controlling native lily pads. Native lilies do provide beneficial food and habitat for a variety of wildlife species and removing them altogether could damage your fish population, while invasives should be eradicated completely.

Koi, goldfish, and grass carp are all known to eat the leaves and occasionally the roots of water lilies. Of these, grass carp are considered the most effective at controlling lily pad populations. However, it should be noted that while grass carp are cheap, they hail from China and are considered non-native in North America and Europe. Because of this, you may need to obtain a permit in order to have them in your pond or lake.

Some areas, like Florida, require that you use sterile (known as triploid) grass carp to prevent them from breeding and overtaking other fish species, and 32 out of the 50 states have made them entirely illegal to possess. They also grow in accordance to the water body size, meaning that in large water bodies with plenty of food, they have been known to reach several feet and 50-plus pounds in size, but average closer to 15 pounds in ponds. They are also likely to also nibble on other plants, such as water hyacinth, which may or may not be advantageous depending on your personal goals. Start off with one or two juvenile, less than 1-foot-long grass carp per approximately 65,000 gallons.

Controlling Lily Pads with Chemicals – A Good Option?

We really can’t state this enough – anything that is designed to kill or harm one thing is likely to kill or harm other things as well. With this in mind, chemicals should always be used as a last resort, and in strict accordance with labels and regulations. Do some research or contact your local environmental agency to learn which control methods are allowed where you live, and the regulations associated with them.

1) Glyphosate

As mentioned in previous articles, glyphosate herbicides specifically approved for water works well with aquatic vegetation removal. As a systemic chemical, glyphosate works its way throughout the entire plant, roots and all. Approved by the EPA, glyphosates are the general go-to for water use, as it does not persist in the environment and is considered generally safe for fish and wildlife as long as label instructions and proper dosages are followed. Aquapro, Refuge, Aquamaster, and Rodeo are popular liquid glyphosate brands that are approved for water use.

2) Imazapyr (Licensed Use Only)

Also used to control phragmites, imazapyr is incredibly potent, non-selective (it’ll kill just about anything that it comes in contact with), and as such is sure to eliminate lily pads. However, as mentioned in our previous phragmites control article, imazapyr persists in soil and water, is quite toxic, and will likely kill off native plants and potentially harm fish and wildlife as well. This chemical requires a license to use (you could either obtain this yourself or hire a professional) and should be applied with great care in accordance with the label. The only variety of imazapyr that can be used in aquatic systems is Habitat, and works best with a surfactant that will reduce surface tension so that imazapyr will more readily disperse into the water rather than concentrating in one area.

3) Herbicide Tablets

Herbicide (otherwise known as aquacide) tablets are quite concentrated, selective (meaning that they generally only kill what you want them to), and are designed more so to target and kill roots – this is perfect for aquatic plants that reproduce using rhizomes, like lily pads. Rather than diluting throughout the water body, tablets will sink into the root bed, release the herbicide slowly over a period of days as the tablet dissolves, and are less likely to damage other plants than liquid herbicides. As the water lily grows, the roots directly absorb the herbicide sitting atop them and distribute it throughout the plant. In most cases, the entire plant dies after about a week. You will have to manually remove the dead vegetation, as otherwise it will sit at the bottom of your lake or pond and use up vital oxygen as decomposition takes place. In terms of chemicals, these little marble-sized tablets may be the most efficient and least harmful approach to managing your lily pad population.

Wild Food Foraging: Pond Lily, Squirrel, Nettles and More

Pond Lily

The pads of the pond lily float like green fairy rafts almost everywhere in the world that there’s calm, placid water. That’s a mighty handy fact to know, too, because the plant will furnish good, flavorful food for the forager from the time it emerges in the spring until it disappears under the ice in winter. If you can find the huge, spongy roots of this wild vegetable during zero weather, it’ll even provide a satisfying meal then.
The white pond lily (Nymphaea odorata) and yellow pond lily (Nuphar variegatum) have pads that may be a foot in diameter. Large cells in the huge, ribbed leaves make the foliage spongy and buoyant enough to float on the water’s surface. This foliage is both tender and tasty when properly prepared.
The stems beneath the lily pads are thick and the roots look like something you’d see sticking out of a foraging dinosaur’s mouth. They can be six feet long, the size of a man’s wrist and covered with a brown skin and “eyes”. These eyes are the sprouting points for the plant’s flower stems and leaf stalks. The stalks grow from the semicircular scars and the flower stems later develop on the stalks.
I harvest the leaves by wading out into a patch and pulling them loose, stalk and all. When I’ve gathered a half dozen of the large pads and stems I take ’em home and wash them very well. This cleansing is necessary since the plant is a favorite resting place for a considerable variety of insects and reptiles. Once the leaves are washed I cut them into pieces with a sharp knife and use them for pond lily soup, September stew (acorn, squirrel and pond lily fritters) . . . and, naturally, for greens. There’s nothing wrong with pond lily leaves raw either, especially when you’re munching the first tender pads of spring.

Pond lily leaves gathered anytime during the growing season (although, again, early spring growth is best of all) make good greens. Simply chop the pads into noodle-like strips and boil them in one change of water. The addition of a little bacon doesn’t hurt a thing.
Steaming works very well with pond lily leaves too, and is usually the way we prepare this part of the vegetable. Older, tougher pads may require 20 minutes of the treatment before they’re “just right” and ready to eat with a pat of butter and seasoning.
For a change of pace with these greens, we also like to cover a cup of chopped wild or domestic onion and two cups of chopped pond lily leaves with water and simmer them for twenty minutes. During the last five minutes we add a pat of butter and some whole grain bread crumbs. When you remove, drain and serve this dish, you can drink the juice or use it for pond lily soup. Backpackers will find that any of the freeze dried onion mixes will work as well as boiled raw onions in this recipe, and everyone who tries the dish will soon discover that pond lilies get tougher and require longer cooking as the season progresses.
Pond lily soup will brighten any fall day. Start a kettleful by simmering a pound of deer or moose leg bone for an hour or until it starts to get tender. At that point, drop in a good-sized chunk of bacon to simmer along for about another hour. When all the meat is tender, remove it from the fire, cool and chop into inch-thick cubes. Put the chopped meat back in the liquid, slice a double handful of pond lily leaves and any other vegetable you might have and drop them into the stock. Cook until the leaves are tender, then season very well and serve piping hot.


Now it happens in September or October that all the ingredients for pond lily fritters are just waiting to be used by the food forager. The first ingredient and probably the hardest to find is squirrel meat. This isn’t to imply that there aren’t plenty of squirrels . . . it simply means that securing one is harder than picking a plant. A most sporting and time honored way to do the job is by hiding very early in the morning in an oak or hickory thicket and waiting quietly until one shows up for harvest with a well-placed .22 bullet. Many folks (like me) who aren’t sure of their aim use a shotgun while others (the real experts) gather bushytails with a slingshot or bow and arrow.
If it happens that you don’t have a gun or other weapon and still want to catch a squirrel, there are other ways. One of the fastest is to take a pocketful of rocks and throw them at a squirrel in a tree until you either very luckily hit and stun him or — more likely — he gets scared and scampers into a hole.
If the hole is too hard to get close to, keep searching out squirrels until you have one in a hollow that you can get to. Then find a piece of barbed wire about four feet long and thread it into the opening until you touch the little varmint. When you feel the wire make contact, bend a handle on your end and twist until you have the squirrel’s tail wrapped up. Then pull him out and dispatch him.
Now I know from experience that an army of animal “lovers” and misinformed conservationists are going to arise and smite me for mentioning this. Please remember, though — before you write — that I’m only trying to help homesteaders who honestly are endeavoring to forage food and need whatever help they can get.
When you have the squirrel, clean him by chopping off the head, feet and tail and cut a slit across the skin in the middle of the back. Insert your forefingers in the slit and pull the halves of the hide away from each other and off the body. Then cut a slit from between the hind legs to between the front legs and pull out the intestines and organs. Cut the meat into quarters, wash or wipe off the blood and cool the chunks in the refrigerator or in cold water.
The acorn part of the stew can be picked up under oak trees almost anywhere in the world except the far north. Remember, however, that acorns have to be shelled, ground and boiled in at least three changes of water to make them sweet
When you have acorns ground into flour, mix 1-1/4 cups of the meal with one teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt and add enough water to make a sticky dough. Then divide the quarters of squirrel in half, salt and pepper the pieces and roll them in the acorn dough. Finally, take large pieces of pond lily leaf, parboil them in salted water for at least ten minutes and roll the batter-coated squirrel meat in individual wrappings of leaves. Place in a 350-degree oven for about one hour or until the meat is tender.
The leaf of the pond lily isn’t the only part of the water vegetable that’s good. The unopened buds — which are best before the flower starts to show — and the roots can be eaten also.
I enjoy the buds boiled a few minutes in salted water or steamed and served with melted butter or yogurt.
The flower buds can also be pickled. Pick and wash about a quart of the unopened blossoms and pack them into a mason jar. Heat to boiling a mixture of one cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup salt and 1/2 teaspoon alum. Pour the solution over the buds, add water to fill the jars, throw in a pinch of dill if you have it and add a red pepper or two. Seal and let stand for about two months.
Pond lily buds, flowers and leaves can be wilted in vegetable oil or bacon grease also. Just cut them into bite-sized pieces and stir ’em around in hot grease until they’re well-coated and turning brown at the edges.
As huge and abundant as lily leaves are, the underwater portion of the plant probably outdoes them in sheer mass. As mentioned before, the roots and stems are huge and long with a skin that looks like something left over from prehistoric times. When pulled up by storms, ice, beavers or muskrats they’ll often float around until they finally lodge and start a new colony. Loose, floating pond lily roots can be used for food . . . but sometimes they’re soft and half rotten so I always pull my own. A turtle hook works very well for this and, occasionally, the long tentacles come up as a bonus when I’m gathering lily leaves and stalks.
Now the interior of the pond lily’s root is soft and spongy, but very clean and white. In fact it looks like it’d be good enough to eat as soon as it’s peeled. Not so. Sections of the water vegetable’s underpinnings do have to be peeled, of course . . . but even then- they’re too bitter to eat.
Accordingly, the way to prepare a pond lily root is to, first, pull it up (easy) and, second, peel it (somewhat difficult due to its spongy and tough nature). I use a very sharp knife and still have to saw a bit to get the brown skin and the “eyes” shucked away.
When I’m down to white root, I cut it into thick slices and boil the pieces in several changes of water until the pulp loses its acrid taste. Adding vinegar to the water also helps neutralize the bitterness and prepare the sections of root for baking, french frying or floating in soup.
Baked pond lily root is made by half filling a medium-sized baking dish with the processed slices. Add a large double pat of butter. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and add 3/4 cup of water in which a potato has been boiled and mashed. Cover with parboiled pond lily leaves and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.


When I get tired of eating pond lily roots I’ll probably look for some nettles before the frost has laid them low, because the common stinging nettle is one of the best plants to bring inside for “forcing” in the basement.
A nettle root is forced or grown inside by placing it in moist sand in the basement . . . and just waiting for it to send up its white stalk. This young shoot and its leaves are both very good and very nutritious . . . they can be eaten raw or cooked into any vegetable or meat stew that you might happen to be making. First, however, before we can plant it we must dig the root.
I try to spot this wild vegetable — which usually grows in a colony — after a fall rain. When I find one I cut the stalk off and dig up the good-sized root, surrounding dirt and all. The more soil that can be left on the underground portion of the plant, the sooner it’ll start to grow in the basement. Figure on about a dozen of these starts for each person you intend to feed over the winter.
The nettle sprouts are pinched off when they’re about four to six inches long and then are boiled for just a few minutes and served with a pat of butter . . . or they can be used in any good fall soup. We like to add one cup of the chopped shoots to two cups of beef stock, simmer for 20 minutes, add salt and pepper and eat hot with whole grain toast.
Planting the roots in boxes of sand in the basement, of course, is only one of many uses of the nettle. Early in the spring the young plants are very good greens and are packed with almost unbelievable amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A.
Now as most country people know, the nettle does possess sharp venom-tipped thorns that will raise welts on your skin at the slightest touch. The venom affects livestock also and it’s very seldom that animals will eat green nettles. After it’s cut and dried in hay, however, the plant makes very good fodder . . . and cooking changes the caustic acid in nettles into nourishing people food.
We pick nettle greens with gloves on and wash the spiny leaves by stirring them in a pan of cold water with a long-handled spoon (so we don’t get stung by the venom). It sometimes takes a change of water to clean off all the clinging dust and insects. When the nettles are washed we drop them into a saucepan that has a closefitting lid, and boil them for two or three minutes in about 1/4 inch of water. They make their own juice so, if the fire isn’t too hot, only a very little water is needed. When the greens are cooked, we serve them with a pat of butter and drink all the juice that’s left when we drain them.
Nettle is also good when cooked with other greens — such as sour dock (Rumex crispus ) — to give a variety of flavors. The good thing about using these two in combination is that the juice from sour dock seems to have a beneficial effect when rubbed on the welts that will surely develop if you accidently touch the nettles. Of course the caustic acid that generates the swelling will be neutralized in a few minutes by the body anyway . . . so sooner or later — sour dock or no — the welts are bound to disappear.
Another dish that can be made with young spring nettles or the shoots forced in your basement is nettle pudding. Wash, chop and cook one heaping cup of nettle greens. Add one large, chopped onion or a half cup of wild onions. Process a cup of milkweed flower buds by boiling them in two changes of water for one minute each time. Add the buds to the nettle mixture. Then for flavor and body mix together 1-1/2 cups of ground deer meat (hamburger will do) and three slices of diced bacon and add to the pudding fixin’s. Season with 1/8 teaspoon of salt and a good sprinkling of sage. Tie the mixture into a clean, white cloth and boil for about an hour in a large kettle. Serve with milk gravy or butter.
The nettle has other uses too. Fibers from the plant can be made into one of the finest cloths. Also, it’s a wonderful herb for curing scurvy and vitamin A deficiency. The ancient herbalists used nettles as a remedy for rheumatism, poisoning. from other plants and a long list of assorted ills. The good old nettle, then, deserves recognition for things other than just the skin rash it produces on unwary folks. Paradoxically, a plant that has a well-known flavor but is almost unknown itself is wintergreen.



Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), checkerberry, teaberry, mountainberry and partridgeberry are all local names for small, shrubby, recumbent plant that sends up little, hear shaped green leaves and a fruiting sprig from a slender stem that creeps among — sometimes under and sometimes on top of the leaves. Later in the year the sprig will bear bright red berries. All of the plant — the leaves, the twigs, and the fruit — contains wintergreen oil . . . the flavoring that’s used in candy, toothpaste, food and a host of other products. By some strange quirk of nature this is the same oil that’s contained in the huge black birch (Betula lenta) tree that was described in an earlier issue of MOTHER.
One of the chief uses of wintergreen is the tea made from the plant. We brew ours by picking the leaves after they’ve turned red and then drying them . . . September and October is a good time for this. When they’ve cured we grind a quart of the leaves and place them in a jar. Then we cover the powder with a quart of boiling water, seal the container and let it stand in the warm house for two days. The longer it sets the stronger the tea, and the redder the leaves the pinker the liquid will be.
This tea can be drunk warm or cool but if we heat it we’re very careful not to boil the solution since that seems to make it lose most, if not all of its flavor. Most people like to strain the “grounds” out but I find I like the taste enough to swallow them along with the liquid. Nothing . . . but nothing cures a headache for me as fast as a good, warm cup of wintergreen tea, swallowed grounds and all. Wintergreen tea is also very refreshing and warming to the body.
A pink wine can be made from this tea by stirring four pounds of honey into three gallons of the strained brew in a stone crock. Add a cake of yeast and let the tea ferment for about two weeks under a cloth. When it quits bubbling, siphon the liquid off into bottles. Cap the containers tightly and let the concoction age for about a month . . . longer if you have the patience. Chill and serve.
Wintergreen berries have a very delightful, cool taste that goes really well in flavored gelatin or eaten in a delicious yogurt.
This yogurt is made by substituting wintergreen tea for the water that would normally be used to dissolve the powdered milk. It’s well to add a teaspoonful of liquified gelatin to each cup of the yogurt mix also. Otherwise, proceed as usual, slip in a little honey or other sweetener if you desire and eat the dish as a snack or dessert.

Ground Cherry

Another plant that makes a fine dessert is the ground cherry (Physalis pubescens). The ground cherry is a sprawling plant that usually doesn’t get over eight inches high. It’s almost indistinguishable from a multitude of other weeds until late summer or fall when it bears its fruit in a Chinese lantern type of husk. This husk is almost always straw-colored and is very often found growing in bunches. Eaten alone, ground cherries are a little too sweet for me to enjoy so I combine them with hazelnuts for a raw dessert that’ll make almost anyone smack their lips.
Pick, husk and wash about a quart of ground cherries. Set the blender at its lowest speed, drop the cherries in and chop them for a few seconds. Remove and replace with a pint of hazelnut meats that you’ve picked and shelled. Chop the nuts in the blender for a few seconds, mix them with the chopped cherries, add chilled milk, a very little cinnamon and stir very well. Place the mixture back in the refrigerator, chill and serve very cool. That’s good eatin’.

How To Get Rid Of Lily Pads In A Pond Naturally

by Tory Jon | Last Updated: January 25, 2020

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Water lilies are typically a desired plant in ornamental ponds.

And beyond their visual appeal, they have other benefits such as providing shade for fish and other aquatic wildlife, plus they are a food source for beaver, deer, muskrats, and waterfowl.

However, left unchecked, lily pads can quickly take over a pond causing more harm than good.

When overgrown they can deplete oxygen levels, and their extensive root and rhizomes can make it hard for fish to swim around and other vegetation to thrive.

So, let’s look at some of the easiest ways to remove lily pads from a pond naturally. And if you have a serious infestation, we’ll cover some the best herbicides for water lilies.

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How To Get Rid of Water Lilies In A Pond Naturally

If your pond is being overtaken by invasive species of lilies or even native species, then it’s time to remove and control them, thus limiting the potential of them choking up your pond again.

There are several different ways to remove lily pads from ponds. The best approach for you will depend on the size of your pond or lake and the size of your infestation.

Let’s start with the cheapest method of removal…

Hand Removal

Just like removing cattails and other pond weeds, you can manually remove lily pads by simply pulling them out with your bare hands.

While this may be an effective method for small ponds with a few lily pads, it can be a daunting task (and perhaps not even possible) if you have a large pond or lake with a large infestation.

Plus, pulling out lilies by hand can leave behind the rhizomes, which means the lilies will most likely sprout back up.

If you decide to go this route, try and pull up the rhizomes, as well. And be aware that you will most likely stir up sediment and debris in your pond causing it to look murky. This sediment will settle down, however, in about a day.

Plus, a little pro tip from a veteran… wear waterproof gloves with a non-slip tread. It will make the job a lot easier!

Lily Pad Removal Tools

Another natural method of lily pad removal is with the use of tools. Tools can make removing a large infestation a lot easier.

There are several different types of lily pad removal tools on the market. The best tool for you will depend on the size of your pond or lake and the size of your lily pad infestation.

Let’s find the best tool for you!

Lily Pad Removal Rake

A pond rake can help you remove lilies in several ways:

  • Raking the surface of the pond, essentially ripping the lilies up and out of the water.
  • Dredging the bottom of your pond, which is great for getting the roots and rhizomes out.

The latter method is preferred, as you’ll get more of the rhizomes up.

Just keep in mind, that again, you’ll be stirring up sediment causing murky pond water. If you have fish, this can be a stressful experience so you may need to remove them during this process

This can be another cheap alternative if you follow our homemade pond rake instructions. Alternatively, you can buy a pre-built pond rake, as well

Lily Pad Cutter

A lily pad cutter is essentially an aquatic weed and grass razer for ponds and lakes.

They are very effective at removing large infestations of lilies and pond weeds. And they are very simple to use; just toss the cutter out into the water, let it sink, and pull it in.


While this product is very effective, it can be dangerous! Handle with care and I’d recommend wearing cut-proof gloves to protect your hands.

The downside of this method is it doesn’t remove the roots or rhizomes. You may want to combine this method with pond dye (see below) which will effectively block sunlight from reaching the roots and stunting their growth.

Aquatic Vegetation Groomer

An aggressive solution for large infestations, an aquatic groomer is basically a gas-powered weed whacker for underwater vegetation.

This weed whacker for water is great for removing lily pads and other vegetation up to 4 feet deep.

Of course, I’d highly recommend you remove any fish from your pond before attempting this type of lily pad removal.

Keep in mind, while the above tools can make the job easier and save you time, none of them are great at getting up the rhizomes, so you’ll most likely have to repeat the process several times a year.

Also, if you’re cutting lilies in a pond or lake, you’ll want to make sure you remove as much of the cut lily pads as possible (instead of leaving them to sink to the bottom of your pond, thus allowing them to regrow, creating pond sludge, and other problems).

Pond Liner

This isn’t an option for everybody, but installing a pond liner, or some sort of substrate (like gravel) on the floor of your pond will help control lily pads and most types of pond weeds.

This is a lot easier to do if you have yet to build your pond. For those with existing ponds or lakes that don’t have a liner or substrate, you can add rock rip-rap 2 to 3 feet above and below the waterline. And/or you can weigh down a large pond liner on the bottom of the pond (and perforate it to allow for gases to escape underneath the liner).

Pond Fish

Certain species of pond fish enjoy eating water lilies, which is why some pond owners try to use them to control lily pads from taking over their pond.

Fish that will eat lily pads include Koi fish, goldfish, and grass carp.

With that said, you can’t control the types of plants that your fish will be eating, so they may eat pond plants that you want in your pond.

And before you try adding grass carp to your pond, check that you can legally do so in your state. Even if you can keep in mind that grass carp can eat 2-3 times their body weight in vegetation per day! So, only add 5 carp per vegetated acre to control lilies and other vegetation.

Pond Cover

Covering the infected area of your pond with a liner or even a window screen will effectively kill water lilies.

Basically, you take your liner or screen and lay it on top of the lilies in your pond (or any floating or submerged plants). This will block essential sunlight from reaching the plants and compress them, as well, killing them off in a matter of weeks.

You can do this one area at a time, simply repeating the process in a new area until the lilies are gone.

Pond Dye

Working on the same principle as a cover, pond dye effectively shades the plants from essential sunlight, killing them off in a matter of weeks. This works best when the dye has been added to your pond in early Spring before plants have started growing or have reached the surface.

Best Herbicide For Water Lilies

If none of the above natural methods have worked, then we can move on to chemical removal methods.


We recommend using herbicides as a last resort. And only use products listed as aquatic herbicides. You may need to check with local and state laws to make sure you can use an aquatic herbicide in your pond.

Here are two of the most popular and effective aquatic herbicides on the market today.

Shoreline Defense

Shoreline Defense by Pond Logic is a broad spectrum weed killer that works great on water lilies, cattails, and other emergent pond weeds.

It’s easy to apply and it kills down to the roots, ensuring that the lilies won’t grow back.

Rodeo Lily Pad Killer

Rodeo Aquatic herbicide is a Glyphosate-based weed killer designed to kill lilies and other pond weeds down to the roots for long-lasting control.

Rodeo herbicide works best on lilies once the plants are mature. And it’s concentrated, so remember to follow the directions and mix it properly according to the label.

Rodeo herbicide is registered in every state except Alaska (at the time of this writing)

Pond Lily Removal FAQ

Are lily pads good for ponds?

Yes, in moderate amounts, lily pads provide shade for your pond fish and other inhabitants, they are a food source for nearby animals including deer, waterfowl and beavers, plus they are aesthetically pleasing.

However, if left unmanaged, they can cause issues for your pond. They can rapidly grow and out-compete other plants, deplete oxygen levels, and as they die off, they can create water-quality issues.

So, as long as your pond isn’t overtaken by lily pads, they are a great addition to any pond!

Does salt kill lily pads?

Yes, salt will kill lily pads.

Unfortunately, it has the potential of damaging and killing the other plants and wildlife in your pond if not dosed correctly.

We don’t typically recommend using salt, but if you decide to go this route, be sure to use a high-quality pond salt.

You’ll want to use a saline tester to make sure the salt levels don’t get too high.

And I’d remove any pond fish and/or plants (the ones you want to keep) during this process.

What eats lily pads in a pond?

A lot of different wildlife, including animals that live in and out of your pond, enjoy munching on water lilies!

Fish like koi, goldfish, and grass carp will sometimes eat lilies. Nearby wildlife like beavers, deer, waterfowl, ducks, and more enjoy eating lilies out of ponds. And even aquatic leaf beetles and aphids will eat lilies.

Will Roundup kill lily pads?

Yes, Roundup should kill lily pads. However, be sure to only use a chemical weed killer that is labeled safe for aquatic use. Roundup does now have a product designed for aquatic use called Roundup Custom Herbicide, which has an active ingredient of Glyphosate. It’s labeled as being safe for aquatic organisms according to the EPA.

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