Varieties of Yellow Pond-lilies can be found across the US.

Why is it possible to drown a common house plant and yet there are plants that grow gleefully in water?

The common Yellow Pond-lily has a beautiful bloom and large, heart-shaped floating leaves (nearly 18-inches in length). The bloom is nearly 4-inches and held just above the water surface in spring through early fall.


The Yellow Pond-lily has developed a specialized type of underwater tissue that helps it survive. This tissue, called aerenchyma, facilitates the underwater movement of large amounts of oxygen and other gasses. This tissue holds eight times the amount of oxygen, compared to a house plant.

Respiration in water lily-type plants is anaerobic (meaning the process occurs without oxygen). Many ponds and slow-moving waters where it grows are often low oxygen. This respiration process creates ethanol (a type of alcohol) within the plant’s cells.

This alcohol is poisonous to the plant. To get rid of the alcohol quickly, the plant evaporates it up through the aerenchyma cells and bloom. The pretty yellow blooms smell strongly of alcohol which attract pollinating flies, and create a small bottle-shaped tuber to store sugars in (explains the common European name of ‘Bandy-bottle’).


Yellow Pond lilies have been used in traditional medicines remedies. There are warnings related to tannins and selecting materials from a clean water source (see the Natural Medicinal Herbs website at Note: Not all varieties or parts of the Yellow Pond-lily are edible or appropriate for use.

The Edible Wild Food website ( reports that the Yellow Pond-lily was a common food source for many Native people. Natives leached the rootstocks collected in the spring and winter of tannins and boiled or roasted for flour. Seeds were often cooked like popcorn. Flowers can make a refreshing drink.

The National Park Service reports Yellow-Pond lily species ‘Nuphar polysepalum’ growing in the Denali National Park/Preserve lowlands in Alaska. When cooked, this variety is also tasty (see Denali National Park, Alaska,

Where to find it

Yellow Pond Lilies grow in a wide variety of aquatic habitats as far south as Baja California, and north into Alaska. Habitat ranges from hot desert ponds to ponds frozen more than half of the year!

Want it?

Propagate Yellow Pond Lilies through seed or division and will grows in containers!

For more information, see Plants for a Future at Image is Royalty free from

Western Sword Ferns grow almost everywhere along the Pacific Coast. Indeed, they can be found from southeastern Alaska to southern California, across the U.S., and in several countries.

Western Sword Fern (royalty free Unsplash, by Danieli Cordiero)

These plants are easy to identify and have been around for a very long time. Fossil records of fern-like plants date back almost 400 million years ago. Ferns, and similar plants, were a dominant plant species until about 230 million years ago.


They are easy to identify. The dark green fronds are shaped somewhat like a sword (long and narrow) or dagger (when young). Fronds will grow up to nearly six feet long in the right environment with ample moisture.  

The fronds grow in a clump around a rhizome (a root structure) typically in soil that is acidic, well-drained, and rich in humus. Fronds will live for up to two and a half years and remain attached to the rhizome even after withering.


Each frond includes up to 100 small, dark green leaves. On the back side of the leaf, there are rows of small balls. These small balls contain 32 to 64 spores that are part of the reproduction system.

Spores are often distributed on the wind or disturbance that sets the spore floating. A spore contains only half of the chromosomes needed to create a new fern.

Once the spores touch ground, they develop both male and female sex organs, and sperm and eggs. The sperm fertilizes the egg, completing the needed chromosomes, and a new fern develops.  


The spores have some interesting traditional medical uses. The Cowichan tribe used the sword fern to counteract a stinging nettle rash. Simply rub the spore side of the leaf against the infected area to take the pain away.

The leaves have been used to cure sore throats (the Swinomish tribe of Washington state), and chewed during childbirth (Lummi tribe of Washington).


Several other Native American/First Nations people would roast, peel, and eat the rhizomes in time of food shortages.


Deer and rabbits will eat sword ferns, along with other rodents. The Washington Dept. of Wildlife has a handy table that provides a list of plants that are eaten by Mule, and Black- and White-tailed deer (

The new, succulent growth is easily damaged and difficult to detect. Deer damage can be more ragged looking. Rodent and rabbit damage appears to be more clipped. Elk and human damage may show up as crushed fronds or rhizomes.

Knowing what kind of animal is doing the damage will make it easier to develop deterrents. Not all critters will eat the plant but can crush it when walking through a clump or tear at the rhizome when trying to remove a leaf.

Growing it

Western Sword Ferns are easy to transplant and grow in your garden. They can provide wonderful texture, stabilize soil, protect soil moisture, and even grow in full sun with enough water.

They can be transplanted/divided in the early winter and spring very easily. The location and exposure will dictate techniques to use. In general:

  • Add compost to the hole to give the plant a good start.
  • Transplanting during hot and dry weather is not recommended, however it is possible if the fronds are dry and the plant has access to moisture. More shade, less protection needed.
  • Make sure that the rhizomes peak out or are close to the soil surface or are just lightly covered (with compost) for sun protection.
  • Keep the soil moist for the next year to develop the roots and help make the plant fairly drought resistant.   
  • Finally, if you purchase a Western Sword Fern make sure that it is a “Polystichum munitum” and not an imposter. Some imposters can become or are invasive plants.  

–Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Sword Ferns (as noted above).
–Wikipedium, western sword fern (
–US Dept of Agriculture,  Conservation Plant Data (
–SF Gate, Interesting Facts About the Western Sword Fern (
— Sword Fern Plant Care: How To Grow Sword Ferns (