Northern Indiana’s more than 450 natural lakes are dotted with the white water lily and yellow pond lily.
Commonly called lily pads in recognition of their broad, green leaves, both plants bloom throughout the summer with large flowers.
The white water lily produces a white flower with a yellow center that floats on the water surface. White water lilies have round leaves that look like floating plates.
The yellow pond lily produces a yellow flower on top of a stem that can reach several inches above the water. Yellow pond lilies, also called “spatterdock,” have heart-shaped leaves that stand tall above the water and flutter in the breeze.
In addition to their natural beauty, lily pads provide a host of benefits to lake ecology.
Aquatic insects — an important link in the aquatic food chain — are attracted to the flowers and rest on lily pad leaves and stems. Frogs and turtles seek the camouflage lily pads offer as safe haven from predators. Fish hide among the stems, not only from each other but also for protection from the sun.
Because both plants grow in shallow water, they buffer waves, thereby protecting the shore from erosion. They also stabilize the lakebed and protect water quality.
Despite these benefits, some lakefront property owners don’t appreciate lily pads, said Indiana Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Jed Pearson.
“We’ve seen a constant battle waged against lily pads over the years,” Pearson said. “Although the plants are still present in most lakes, some lakes have very few left.”
Current DNR rules prohibit lake residents from removing lily pads, except in small areas with no open water access.
“At specific locations where lily pads impair lake access, we can issue permits to control them,” Pearson said.