Invasive Pink Waterlilies

Pink-WaterliesI was at a workshop on the Emerald Ash Borer last week at Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center. This is at a local state park and their prime attraction for visitors at this park is the ponds over flowing with pink waterlilies. Is this detrimental to the pond life?

Pond-WaterliliesIt really is a beautiful sight, but I was asked a question by one of the participants at this workshop knowing I was a Cornell volunteer and landscape designer. They wanted to know if the waterlilies are detrimental to the pond habitat. I don’t install waterlilies in landscape ponds and this is the reason why – they can possibly do what you see above.

Deer-waterliliesDeer grazing pond side.

I am not that knowledgeable on waterlilies, but do know there are some that are native. They also spread, but are enjoyed by wildlife like the deer, so their numbers can be maintained. It puzzled me why they had this pink invasive variety in the ponds, so after the event, I called one of their naturalists.


She explained the white and yellow natives Nymphaea odorata, were originally planted, but in the 1950’s Mrs. Reinstein and her daughter introduced the non-native pink. Over time, the native waterlilies disappeared and all that remained was the non-native.


What the park workers quickly realized was the pink variety was not that tasty to deer. The deer will eat them, but not with the same enthusiasm as the white native variety. The pink is cultivated from the white, but it is also more dominant in reproducing.


So as I assumed, the waterlilies are a detriment to the ponds. They produce so much vegetative debris each spring which in turn makes the ponds more shallow from the repeated build-up. The density of pads will shade the pond which changes the ecology of the habitat. Direct sunlight is important to fish for proper vitamin and mineral absorption, so a completely shaded pond would cause fish not to thrive.

Ā Buried-Rhizomes

The park official told me although they have removal efforts, there is no way to keep the ponds under control.


The park workers have been removing waterlilies from the ponds, but this is a monumental chore with how the roots form root mass – where you need a hatchet to remove established roots.


Many keep them in pots, but over time, the lilies likely will abandon the pots to established themselves in the bottom of the pond.


This is how ponds get like what you see in this post. As you can also see, winter does not keep them in check. As pretty as they are, there is a lot of maintenance to keeping them for a pond. It is also recommended not to use them so as not to have them end up in park ponds and lakes.

Lone-Waterlily-BloomOn Nature and Wildlife Pics, I have Dragonflies and Damselflies, many colorful critters. If you missed the gold dragonflies, see Dragonflies in Gold.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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50 Responses to Invasive Pink Waterlilies

  1. lulu says:

    I find if amazing that some things, plant or animal, that are beautiful can be detrimental to nature.

    • True. Like any insect for instance, if they don’t have their predator to keep them in bounds, they will overwhelm the plants they eat. This lily is a cross between the Asian and the native white. I was told this by the naturalist, but she was unsure of the variety. I looked them up and am pretty sure I know which variety, yet did not want to print it without conformation. It was hybridized to get the vibrant pink color, much more desirable in the nursery trade.

  2. They are so captivating though, like beautiful alien invaders…

  3. Sigh. That is a stunning photo at the beginning of the post.

  4. reading this transported me back to the louisiana swamps, where water hyacinth choked a small cypress-studded lake across from our house. at times i tried clearing some of the hyacinths, and what a nasty-yucky-creepy job that was, and a week later the hyacinths had reclaimed the area!

    the waterlilies are soooo beautiful; it’s too bad that they’re not more considerate of the native species!

    • We have issues with a water hyacinth and water chestnut up here too. Each year they run a program at one of the state parks for volunteers to remove it. They also remove the Nymphaea odorata ssp. tuberosa. Sadly, chemicals are used on the most pervasive and invasive.

      • ah.. i was on a tour of isla corazon here in ecuador (yesterday) and someone asked the guide who left the footprints in the mud beneath the wooden walkway that snaked through the mangroves… the answer was that the wildlife people were treating the boards against termites… i asked what kind of treatment… and someone else answered, ‘we don’t want to know..’

        it was quiet, and we resumed the walk.. and i said, ‘i’m sorry,… but i don’t agree with apathy…. ‘

        we DO need to know.. as we walked thru that amazing island of mangroves, i thought of rachel carson and felt an eerie bit of premonition of what was coming…

  5. Wonderful post. I was actually working my ponds and ravines yesterday of an invasive yellow water Lilly we have down here. They are beautiful but ruin the pond for cattle and ducks and geese, excellent pics and postl thanks!

  6. Nick Hunter says:

    Interesting. Have never seen the pink lilies and knew nothing of their story.

  7. bittster says:

    They really are beautiful though šŸ™‚
    – not that the white isn’t, but I wonder what makes them so much more successful, is it really just that they multiply more quickly? I would be interested to know if there were ever white lilies in the pond.

    • White the deer like, pink they tolerate when nothing else is around, and you can imagine in summer, there is no need for deer to eat them. I did mention in the post that native white and yellow was planted originally in the ponds, then the wife and daughter added the pink. It is a perfect example where the native is pushed out by an introduced plant. Not one white or yellow was seen in all the ponds at this park.

      • bittster says:

        I see now, I miss-read the part about the original plantings. Too bad they’re so aggressive. I think here the beavers and muskrat eat many of the native ones, plus they eat cattail roots, so some area lakes are fairly open.
        Don’t be too down on the alterations to nature, in this part of PA I believe only one lake is natural, all the other ponds and lakes are due to dams and digging…. But it seems beaver are starting to return, so I think that helps with the diversity of habitats.
        I like to think if one pink pond as diversity…. But as you say aquatic plant stand to be particularly fast spreaders so I’m sure they’re being watched.
        Still a beautiful sight though, and I’m glad to see it.

  8. Annette says:

    And I didn’t even know that deer eat waterlilies! I don’t think all varieties are spreading like this one as I see many well behaved ones in gardens but this one is obviously very happy. It’s an awesome sight anyway and we can clearly understand why Monet loved them so much. Just planted a white Marliacea in our pond and another one in a tub on our terrace…have to watch the deer šŸ˜‰

    • I am not certain, but what I think they like is the roots. I would have to ask the naturalist this question. In some gardens with a much smaller surface area to the pond, it would be much easier to keep them under control. These ponds are huge. The native variety did not spread to this extent I was told. Clients of mine have them in tubs, but there is always a chance they could escape if/when they submerge them in their ponds.

  9. alesiablogs says:

    I have a different appreciation for the water lily now. I now am in a love/the relationship with the pink one…However, it is not their fault for being planted where they were. Humans always seem to get in the way.

  10. alesiablogs says:

    I meant to write love/hate relationship….oh my computer–I am in a love/hate relationship with it too!!!!

  11. lucindalines says:

    How sad that something potentially pretty is so harmful. I have tried in vain for a few years to put just one little water lily in my tiny pond. Perhaps I better leave well enough alone.

  12. So many water plants are invasive. I have waterlilies, but planted them in baskets. Beautiful pictures!

  13. I would never have expected this outcome, but then it’s always after us humans intervene with nature that we change its balance. Still, we don’t learn…
    Beautiful post, Donna! šŸ™‚

  14. Sue Link says:

    I planted a pink water lily years ago in my pond. It was called Attraction. It was contained in a pot. I liked it, and each winter I would put it in a tub in the basement because I didn’t want to lose it to very low winter temperatues, but it eventually died out. I think it needed to be transplanted, but it was too late. What I did notice about this water lily was that the leaves were actually very big, and I thought they were too big for my small back yard pond. Even though I did like the pink water lilies. Too bad they can not come up with some measure to control them. They are so beautiful.
    Your photos are gorgeous.

    • Eventually, those contained need to be placed in a pond or they will not live I believe. I have seen so many get them and have difficulty keeping them over winter. It would be nice if there was better control on them.

  15. I always wonder about the water lilies when I visit botanical gardens. Sounds like we have the same native ones that you do. I’m not a big fan of the yellow ones, for some reason, but the white native water lilies are graceful and lovely. Too bad they introduced tha pink ones. It wouldn’t have been such a monumental task if it was a smaller pond, but that one is too large, it sounds, to get it under control. Sounds like you had a good experience at the conference.

    • I do like the native white. They have them across the bridge in Canada in the gardens. I never asked how they control them, maybe all are in baskets. The botanical gardens and school run these gardens, so I may ask them. No deer or fish to eat the waterlilies in these public and highly trafficked gardens.

  16. A.M.B. says:

    They are such beautiful flowers. I’m sorry to find out that they are so damaging!

  17. Love, love, love – Beautiful Captures šŸ™‚ Happy Week!

  18. Wow! It is amazing how invasive some species can be without the proper natural controls available to keep them in check. I have seen ponds like the one you pictured and it gets to a point where it is impossible to control. It is really a shame because it looks like a great wildlife habitat otherwise.

  19. debsgarden says:

    I can only repeat what the other commenters have said. So lovely, and so sad they are invasive. I don’t see a lot of water lilies here. I do remember seeing both white and pink at Jasmine Hill Gardens. I wonder if it is the same variety.

    • There are many varieties, so unlikely they have the same. I just wonder with the various cultivars, how many are created from but a few? It would be interesting considering many would not winter here.

  20. I had no idea about this. It’s such a shame. The pink waterlilies are beautiful, but then so is purple loosestrife.

  21. Of Gardens says:

    Too bad they are invasive because they are stunning.

  22. Oh wow, they are invasive but beautiful! I just posted that I have Lemon Lime hosta for trade!
    Michael šŸ™‚

  23. Changing the water temperature really does have a dramatic affect on what is able to thrive or even just reproduce. I have seen this same proliferation in bodies of water here in Washington and I agree it is a nightmare to combat..

  24. It’s unfortunate that something so beautiful is detrimental to the pond. I’ve noticed a lot of the local ponds around me filling with lillypads lately, but I never looked to see what color the bloom was. Now I’m curious!

  25. I planted non-native hardy waterlilies before I knew better…but we have a small pond and it is easy to control them and clean up the pond although they just keep coming all summer long…the frogs love them and we have no fish.

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