It is as confusing in Chinese for both flowers as in English. The seeds and roots of lotus are delicacies in Asian cousine. However, they are not called Nelumbo seeds or Nelumbo roots, but, instead, they are called Nymphaea seeds (蓮子) and Nymphaea roots (蓮藕) in Chinese. Same thing happens in the religion of buddhism, the buddha is often referred to sitting on a Nymphaea, but in actuality, he is sitting on a Nelumbo.
Nelumbo and Nymphaea are two very different plants. The easiest way to differentiate them are through their leaves. The leaves of Nelumbo (lotus) stand above the water and their stems go into the middle of the leaves. The leaves of Nymphaea (water lilly) float on the water and their stems connecting to the leaves on the side. Confusing enough?
Both flowers are considered as noble flowers in Chinese culture. They grow up from the mud but keep themselves so clean and pure.
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