Environment Planet Earth What's the Difference Between Water Lilies and Water Lotus? By Jaymi Heimbuch Writer California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer specializing in wildlife conservation. She is the author of The Ethiopian Wolf: Hope at the Edge of Extinction. our editorial process Twitter Twitter Jaymi Heimbuch Updated May 10, 2019 Mark sh/ MNN Flickr Group/Creative Commons Share Twitter Pinterest Email Environment Weather Outdoors Conservation It might be easy at first to get these two aquatic flowers mixed up, but they have definite distinctions. In fact, though these are both flowers found in water, they actually belong to two separate families of flowers. It is also easy to tell them apart at a glance once you know what to look for. Simple Expressions writes, "[T]he most commonly cited difference and the one which will help you decide which plant it is from a distance, lies in the leaves of the two plants. The leaves of lotus are emergent, meaning that they rise above the water level whereas the leaves of water-lily are found floating on the water surface. Same is true for their respective flowers; lotus flowers are emergent and water-lily flowers are floating." Curious about more in-depth differences? This video will answer your questions.