Variegated Pond-lily – Nuphar Variegata: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Yellow Lake Rose of Wild Plants

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In Anishinaabemowin, kandamo, variegated pond-lily is not just an edible and medicinal plant to the 2-leggeds, but a favourite of aquatic wildlife. It’s also visited by many pollinators.

Variegated or yellow water-lily (nuphar variegata) is common here in gently flowering shallow waters, up to a few metres deep. There was one small yellow water lily (nuphar pumila) spotted in one location when Haliburton Flora was compiled, a plant whose North American presence is generally limited to Michigan’s upper peninsula. There’s no sign of it now.

Variegated Pond-lily - Nuphar Variegata
Variegated Pond-lily – Nuphar Variegata

Edible Uses of Variegated Pond-lily

You can make a tea from the flower petals.

The seeds can be cooked into a mush or parched. Seeds can be “popped” too, same as white water lily.

The roots are edible, best in late autumn or early spring, and can be boiled or roasted. Best peeled. You can slice and dry for later use or grind the dried root into a flour for gruel or stew thickener. The flavor is strong, but changes of water during boiling can make it milder. I have heard large amounts of the rhizome are potentially poisonous, or maybe it’s large amounts are psychoactive, or maybe it’s getting confused with blue water lily (nymphaea caerulea), which really is mildly psychoactive.

Medicinal Uses of Variegated Pond-lily

Variegated Pond-lily is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Integumentary
  • Reproductive
  • Urinary

Medicinal tags include Anti-inflammatory, Astringent and Demulcent. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes astringent usuals like rhizomes for sore throat, diarrhea, certain inflammations in the digestive tract, skin inflammations and ulcerations, etc., bolstered very much by the mucilage content. It’ll soothe tissues instead of drying them out. Many herbalists use it in various urinary or uterus related issues in part for its soothing effect.

Variegated Pond-lily
Variegated Pond-lily

Alternative Uses of Beaver Root

The bruised rhizomes steeped in milk can be used as an insecticide for beetles or cockroaches invading your home. But much better than this, there are beetles it’s a host plant for including its namesake water-lily leaf beetle (galerucella nymphaeae). Pollinators love it and it’s food and shelter for a large swath of aquatic wildlife.

Turtle fans take note – it’s an important food source for our painted and snapping turtles! Cover too!

Growing Nuphar Variegata

When it comes to finding water lilies at shops, we’re sparse on native varieties at the moment. You’re likely to be bombarded with cultivators instead. The best native for a small pond, if you can find it, would be nymphaea odorata. Propagation information for it is in our white water lily feature.

Adding variegated pond-lily to your pond or shoreline will take a little work. You can propagate via scions taken from the creeping rhizome, or transplanting rhizomes in shallow (>3 feet) water late in the year.


And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Mi’kmaq Medicines (2nd edition): Remedies and Recollections

Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants: A Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Indian Tribes

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