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Least Water Lily

Nuphar pumila

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Nymphaeaceae (Water Lily)
Also in this family:
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres tall
Bogs, ditches, marshes, moorland, mountains, ponds, water.

Yellow, 5 petals
Yellow flowers, up to 3cm across. The flowers project out of the water just a few centimetres above the surface. Pollinated by flies and beetles.
A long, cylindrical capsule. Up to 6cm long.
A perennial aquatic plant with flat floating circular leaves. The leaves are smooth and hairless. The submerged leaves are smaller. Grows in still water only, in mountains.
Other Names:
Dwarf Water-lily, Small Yellow Pond-lily, Yellow Pond-lily.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Nuphar pumila, also known as the least water-lily or small yellow pond-lily, is an aquatic perennial plant in the Nymphaeaceae family. It is sometimes referred to as a dwarf water lily since it looks like a smaller Nuphar lutea. It is in flower from July to August and is pollinated by flies.

Least water-lily is typically found in sunny environments, predominantly in lakes, ponds and slow-flowing parts of rivers from Northern and Central Europe to Northern Asia. It is an aquatic plant associated with freshwater habitat and is pollinated mainly by flies.

Nuphar pumila (least water-lily) is found in western Mongolia, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Sweden, UK and France, as well as the United States (at least Michigan's upper peninsula). It is more successful in sunny environments and predominantly found in lakes, ponds and slow-flowing parts of rivers from Northern and Central Europe to Northern Asia. Its leaves are elliptic with fine hairs underneath and it is pollinated mainly by flies. Its geographic distribution includes these areas.

Nuphar pumila (least water-lily) is considered endangered in France, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It is also part of a global wild plant species conservation project and a conservation plan has been developed for it. In Canada, it is known as dwarf water lily.


Least Water-lily (Nuphar pumila), also known as Yellow Pond-lily, is a beautiful aquatic plant species that belongs to the Nymphaeaceae family. It is native to North America and is found in still waters such as ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams. This plant species is known for its bright yellow flowers and small size, which make it a popular addition to water gardens and aquatic landscapes.

The least water-lily has heart-shaped leaves that are typically green and floating on the surface of the water. The leaves are 1 to 4 inches in size and are supported by long petioles that allow them to float freely on the water's surface. The plant produces beautiful yellow flowers that bloom in the summer and early fall. Each flower is about 1 to 2 inches in diameter and has a distinctive bowl-like shape. The petals are arranged in a circle, and the center of the flower is filled with many small, yellow stamens.

In the wild, least water-lilies grow in shallow waters, typically 2 to 6 inches deep. They prefer still waters, but can tolerate slight currents. They are also well-adapted to varying water levels and can survive even in the driest of conditions. The plant is hardy and can tolerate a wide range of water temperatures, making it an ideal choice for water gardens in temperate climates.

One of the advantages of the least water-lily is that it is easy to care for. The plant is not demanding and can grow in a variety of soils, as long as they are well-drained. It also does not require frequent pruning, but can benefit from regular removal of dead leaves and flowers to keep the water clean and free of debris.

The least water-lily is a beautiful and low-maintenance plant that can add a touch of color and beauty to any water garden or aquatic landscape. Its bright yellow flowers and heart-shaped leaves are a delight to see and are sure to attract attention. Whether you are an experienced gardener or just starting out, the least water-lily is an excellent choice for your next aquatic gardening project.

In addition to its ornamental value, the least water-lily has ecological significance as well. The plant provides habitat and food for a variety of aquatic species, including insects, amphibians, and fish. The leaves and stems of the plant are used by many species of waterfowl as a source of food, while the flowers provide nectar for pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

The plant also helps improve water quality by filtering out excess nutrients and pollutants. The leaves and roots of the least water-lily act as a natural filter, removing excess nitrogen and phosphorus from the water, which helps prevent the growth of harmful algae. This, in turn, helps to maintain a healthy ecosystem in aquatic environments.

However, it is important to note that the least water-lily can become invasive in some areas. The plant can reproduce rapidly and spread quickly, and if left unchecked, it can outcompete native species and alter the balance of aquatic ecosystems. To avoid this, it is recommended to plant the least water-lily in containers or to place physical barriers around the plant to limit its spread.

Aside from its ornamental and ecological benefits, the least water-lily has been used for various traditional and medicinal purposes. The plant has a long history of use by indigenous peoples of North America, who used it to treat a variety of ailments, such as skin rashes, stomach troubles, and respiratory problems.

In traditional herbal medicine, the roots of the least water-lily were dried and powdered to make a tea that was believed to have a sedative effect. The plant was also used to make poultices to treat wounds and injuries, and to relieve pain and swelling.

While some of these traditional uses have not been scientifically validated, recent studies have shown that the plant does have some medicinal properties. The roots of the plant contain compounds that have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, and may also have anti-cancer properties.

In conclusion, the least water-lily is not only a beautiful and ecologically beneficial plant, but it also has a rich history of traditional and medicinal use. While more research is needed to fully understand the medicinal properties of the plant, its long history of use by indigenous peoples and its recent scientific validation suggest that it has the potential to be a valuable resource for health and wellness.

Overall, the least water-lily is a versatile and valuable plant species that has much to offer. Whether you are looking for a beautiful ornamental plant for your water garden, a way to improve water quality, or a potential natural remedy, the least water-lily is definitely worth considering.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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