The Ripple - Fall 2016

A New Species of Water Lily

Editor’s Note: The plants and animals we find when we go paddling are a significant part of what calls us into remote waterways. When the flora and fauna are rare or unique to only small parts of our world, finding them along the way is even more of a treat.

The information below is a summary of an article published in a 2016 edition of “The Canadian Field Naturalist” and is used with the permission of the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club. You can read the complete article at

Botanists have identified a new species of water lily that is only known to grow in three waterways in central Manitoba and east-central Saskatchewan. In Saskatchewan it has been found on Egg Lake near Cumberland House, and on Leaf Lake, near Hudson Bay. The largest known population of the lily in Canada is on the Minago River, north of Lake Winnipeg. An area of the river between highway 6 and highway 373 has been surveyed and the plant was identified in three spots. It appears to be spreading eastward along the Minago.


Known locations (solid circles) and areas searched (hollow circles) for Nymphaea loriana (Lori’s Water-lily) in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada

Lori’s water lily (nymphaea loriana) occurs in fresh, stagnant, or slowly moving water. It prefers clear water and is most typically found in water one to two meters deep and somewhat further from shore than other water lilies. The estimated population of Lori’s water lily is only 750 plants, although more may exist in poorly explored lakes and rivers.

lily Flower of Nymphaea loriana (Lori’s Water-lily). Photo: Manitoba Museum

Canada is required to “monitor, assess and report regularly on the status of all wild species” to fulfill legal obligations under the accord for the Protection of Species at risk. Such status reports can be used by various agencies in identifying and priorizing species for protection and conservation work. As a newly recognized species, data on the distribution, population size, and habitat of Lori’s water lily are needed. It is difficult to attain such data in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Determining the population size, for instance, is done by travelling the entire perimeter of the population by boat and keeping a running tally of plants observed. In areas where there are no roads, getting boats into a remote lake in order to conduct scientific research, is challenging. Botanists hope that alerting the public to the need for more information about this species may result in additional sightings.

The distribution of water lilies, and many other aquatic species of plants in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, is poorly known. There are only 49 documented populations of water lilies from Manitoba and 27 from Saskatchewan. Water lilies are less tolerant of fast currents and water fluctuations than pond lilies and, as their habitat is rarer, water lilies are less common.

Lori’s Water lily is not currently considered to be an at-risk species though researchers have identified several factors that could impact it in the future. Because it prefers clear water, it could be affected by changes in water quality that might introduce contaminants into the water. While the Minago River and Leaf Lake populations are remote enough not to be greatly impacted by industry, Leaf Lake is in an agricultural area where run-off from fields could affect water quality for the lily. Lori’s water lily is restricted to habitats with relatively shallow water and is vulnerable to drastic changes in water levels, which may occur as a result of climate change and dam construction. It could also suffer at the hands of water gardeners who like to add water lilies to home ponds. Again, its distance protects it as those looking to gather plants for personal use or for the horticulture industry, are inclined to choose specimens that are easier to get to and to collect.