Paddling with My Camera: Invasive and Native Aquatic Lilies

Fragrant Water Lily

Recently I was kayaking on a lake in northeastern Washington and took some photographs of water plants. This Fragrant Water Lily, not native to the state, is classified as a Class C noxious weed. The plant is quite lovely and I can understand why gardeners have been drawn to cultivate it in their ponds.

Like many plants these lilies have found ways to travel and escape their confines. It is believed that the Fragrant Water Lily was originally introduced into Washington during the Alaska Pacific Yukon Exposition, a world’s fair held in Seattle in 1909.

It was a windy day on the lake and though I tried to avoid running over the flowers with the boat, I did several times. They popped back up, seemingly unscathed and resilient.

Most of the lilies I saw were pink but there were a few white ones.

The bees were putting them to good use in their relationship of mutual benefit (below).

The color of the flowers was so inviting. I saw them from about quarter mile away.

I understand the Fragrant Water Lilies can cause problems and at the same time we humans are incredibly invasive and destructive for most natural habitats, often with far less beauty to show for it. In this case it was humans who created the opportunity for the plants. It isn’t their fault. With the help of my camera, I get to celebrate their loveliness.

The lily pad stems, spoke of a mysterious watery space very different than the one I inhabit.

I love water and envied the floating leaves.


The bulbous Spatterdock, Yellow Water Lily, Yellow Pond or Cow Lily (above) is a native plant and was growing in several parts of the lake including areas next to the Fragrant Water Lily.

“Humans have put spatterdock to many uses. Historically many cultures ate the roots cooked fresh in stews or dried and ground into flour for baking. The seeds were gathered by Native Americans and either ground into flour or popped like popcorn. The leaves and roots also contain tannin which was put to use in dyeing and tanning. Medicinally, the leaves were used to stop bleeding, and roots were used in a poultice for cuts, swelling, and other ailments.”

Taking photographs is an opportunity to see and notice the world around me and to learn a bit about what she has to teach me. The beauty of the world gives without asking for anything in return. What is our responsibility for the gifts?