The Park

Green Lake’s Lily Pads

August 18, 2014 6:33am


Ever wonder about those white blossoming waterlilies (aka lily pads) you see floating the lake every spring and summer? We did. So we asked Martin Muller, who has a background in biology, runs a Green Lake Nature site called Green Lake Park Nature and a former Greenlaker who has spent decades enjoying Green Lake Park. Here’s what we found out:

Seattle Greenlaker: So what’s up with the lily pads, Martin? 

Martin: The fragrant white waterlilies or Nympheaea Ordorata are native to the Eastern US and are considered an invasive weed here in Washington state.

Seattle Greenlaker: So is that a problem? 

Martin: During my 20 years of regular walks around the lake I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard people express the opinion that “this year there are more lilies than ever!” I did some looking into that at one point. In a 1980 publication on King County aquatic plants the area of Green Lake covered by lilies was estimated to be less than 4 percent. I flew around Seattle in a chartered airplane in 1989 and took pictures of the lake. From those photographs I estimated the lake coverage by lilies to be still less than four percent. And it hasn’t really changed since. In my opinion it has to do with the lake’s depth and how the lilies are spread (floating tubers; during winter wind from the SW drives those tubers into the areas where the lilies can be found today).

Seattle Greenlaker: So do they help the lake? 

Martin:The lilies provide some habitat. In the past Pied-billed Grebes nested in semi-colonial conditions out amongst the lilies. This normally secretive mash-dwelling bird was easy to observe. Red-winged Blackbirds use the lilies to forage (walk along the top, stick their head beneath edge of adjacent leaf, lift it and expose aquatic insects/larvae).  And carp also spawn amongst the lilies, and it provides shelter for small fish and other aquatic creatures (mainly insects).

Thanks for sharing your water lily know-how Martin!  

Do you have a question about Green Lake’s flora or fauna? Let us know and we will try to get to the bottom of it!