An aquatic plant that can cover large areas. Flowers are held singly above water on long stalks; with 20 or more sepals and petals; light yellow; to 8 inches across; with a central elevated receptacle resembling a showerhead. Blooms June–September. Leaves blue-green, shedding water, normally above water level on long stems (young leaves float), circular, extremely variable in size, to 2 feet wide, with the stem attached in the center. The receptacle, to 5 inches wide, starts out soft and yellow, becoming brown and woody as the seeds ripen. Seeds acornlike, anchored in deep pits.
Similar species: Water lilies (Nymphaea spp.) have white, pink, or violet flowers that lack the round disk at the center, and their leaves have a V-shaped notch.