Until today I thought that lotus and water lily were interchangeable words. Silly me. Of course it's not that simple.
Both are aquatic plants that grow in shallow calm fresh (ie. unsalted) water and love lots of sunshine. Yet there is a botanical distinction; and the water lily is a Western plant, while the lotus is Eastern. To confuse things, now, of course, you can find either wherever the climate is suitable.
I saw this white beauty today at a garden center. Which is it, a lotus or water lily?
Let me give you clue: The most telling difference is that the petals of the water lily sit on the water, while the lotus rises above it.
Since I saw this fabulous specimen today, I though I'd also show you a lotus seed head. The seeds are used in Chinese cooking; I love both the soup and dessert made with lotus seeds.
If you are interested to learn more about this fabulous flower, this web page looked interesting, explaining not only the botany, but its appearance in history, literature and sacred lore.