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Yellow Water Lily (Nuphar advena)

Life history

Species overview

Yellow Water Lily (Nuphar advena), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in the shallow to deep water of sluggish streams, ponds, and lakes. Blooming occurs June through September; fruiting occurs early July through mid October. The optimal identification period for this species is June through mid-August.

Synonyms: Nuphar fluviatilis, N. lutea ssp. advena, N. microcarpa, N. ovata, N. ozarkana, Nymphaea advena, Nymphaea chartacea


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Petioles round or oval in cross-section while N. variegata has a somewhat flattened petiole that is winged along the margins. The sepals of N. variegata are red or purplish at the base.
  • Flower characteristics: Flowers 3 to 5 cm thick; sepals 6, yellow within or rarely suffused with red; anthers 3 to 7 mm, longer than the filaments; stigmatic disk greenish, 10 to 15 mm wide at the anthesis, mostly 14- to 18-rayed.
  • Fruit characteristics: Green, broadly ovoid, 4 cm, mostly thicker than long.
  • Leaf characteristics: Mostly emersed, 12 to 40 cm by 7 to 30 cm, 1 to 2 times as long as wide, on stout petioles, the basal lobes separated by a broadly triangular sinus.


  • Blooming phenology: June through September
  • Fruiting phenology: early July through mid October
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is June through mid-August


  • Growth form: Aquatic forb-emergent
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Not recorded for Wisconsin sites.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Yellow Water Lily (Nuphar advena). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Nuphar advena in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5T5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in the shallow to deep water of sluggish streams, ponds, and lakes.
  • Soils: Aquatic soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Yellow Water Lily. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Yellow Water Lily. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • This species is likely sensitive to water quality. Following BMPs around streams and buffering associated drainages will reduce eutrophication and prevent water quality degradation.


Yellow Water Lily Photo.

Photo © Dan Carter.

Yellow Water Lily Photo.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

Yellow Water Lily Photo.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

Yellow Water Lily Photo.

Nuphar advena has leaves that are emersed (sticking out of the water) compared to the more common Nuphar variegata which has leaves that are usually floating on the water surface.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

Yellow Water Lily Photo.

Nuphar advena has a petiole (leaf stem) that is rounded in cross section, compared the more common Nuphar variagata (common yellow pond lily), which has a petiole that is flattened on one side.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition