Information on White Water-lily

Common Name: White Water-lily
Scientific Name: Nymphaea alba
Irish Name: Bacán bán
Family Group: Nymphaeaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
White Water-lily is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


Beautiful, fragrant and exotic-looking flowers which stand proud of the water and of their floating leaves make this a very special aquatic plant. These perennial plants are anchored to the mud at the bottom of slow-flowing, unpolluted  watercourses or ponds by a root system of rhizomes.  In June, July and August, the 'Lily-white' flowers (15-20cm across) which only open in full sunshine have 20 or more oval shaped petals backed by 4 to 6 large greenish sepals.  At their centre are numerous golden yellow stamens.  The deep leaves (10-30cm across), which float just on or slightly below the water's surface, are almost circular except for the split to the stalk, and the lobes do not overlap. This is a native plant belonging to the family Nymphaeaceae.    

I first identified this wildflower on the Upper Lake at Glendalough, Co Wicklow in 1976 and I photographed it there in 2010. 

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Water-lily, White
Water-lily, White

'When at dawn she sighs, and like an infant to the window
Turns grave eyes craving light, released from dreams,
Beautiful she looks, like a white water-lily
Bursting out of bud in havens of the streams.
When from bed she rises clothed from neck to ankle
In her long nightgown sweet as boughs of May,
Beautiful she looks, like a tall garden-lily
Pure from the night, and splendid for the day.'

From 'Love in the Valley' by George Meredith (1828 – 1909)