Spatterdock (Yellow Pond Lily)

Photo of a spatterdock flower held against a leaf
Safety Concerns
Scientific Name
Nuphar advena (formerly N. lutea)
Nymphaeaceae (water lilies)

Spatterdock is a perennial, herbaceous, emergent aquatic plant. Flowers at or just above water surface, deep yellow, saucer- or globe-shaped, to 3 inches across; sepals usually 6, overlapping and much larger than the many petals, which are small, thick, oblong, and scalelike, in a ring just below the stamens. The many stamens surround a large, compound ovary. Blooms May–October. Leaves at or just above water surface, egg- to heart-shaped with a wide, basal V-notch, of variable size.

Botanists used to consider our spatterdock the same species as one found in Eurasia (N. lutea), but DNA testing has shown they are not so closely related. That’s why our species is now called N. advena. There are two subspecies in Missouri: ssp. advena, with green or yellowish sepals and flowers ¾ to 2 inches wide, and ssp. ozarkana, with reddish- or purplish-tinged sepals and flowers ½ to 1 inch wide. Subspecies ozarkana is more common in Missouri; it is often seen in spring-fed Ozark streams and rivers.

Similar species: Water lilies (Nymphaea spp.) have large, showy flowers with many petals that are typically white to pink to violet; the leaves are round, with a cleft. American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) has yellow to cream-colored flowers that open to 8 inches across with a large central disk that resembles a showerhead. The leaves do not have a cleft and are usually held above the water.

Other Common Names
Yellow Water Lily

Leaf length and width: 2–16 inches.

Where To Find
image of Spatterdock Cowlily Yellow Pond Lily Yellow Water Lily distriburion map

Scattered along and south of Missouri River.

Margins of ponds, lakes, slow-moving to stagnant portions of streams, rivers, and spring branches, sloughs, and fens.

Native Missouri aquatic plant. For comments on taxonomic (name) changes and subspecies that are present in Missouri, see Description above.

The starchy roots were eaten by Native Americans, as were the seeds.

Pollinators include bees, flies, and beetles. Interestingly, when the flowers close in the evening, they sometimes trap beetles in the flower overnight, releasing them when they reopen the next morning. The seeds are consumed by deer, muskrat, beaver, raccoons, and waterfowl.

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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!