Aquatic plants are plants that have adapted to living in aquatic environments (saltwater or freshwater). They are also referred to as hydrophytes or macrophytes. These plants require special adaptations for living submerged in water, or at the water's surface - the most common adaptation is aerenchyma, but floating leaves and finely dissected leaves are also common. Aquatic plants can only grow in water or in soil that is permanently saturated with water. They are therefore a common component of wetlands.
The principal factor controlling the distribution of aquatic plants is the depth and duration of flooding. However, other factors may also control their distribution and abundance, including nutrients, disturbance from waves, grazing, and salinity.
Aquatic vascular plants have originated on multiple occasions in different plant families; they can be ferns or angiosperms (including both monocots and dicots). Seaweeds are not vascular plants; rather they are multicellular marinealgae, and therefore are not typically included among aquatic plants. A few aquatic plants are able to survive in brackish, saline, and salt water. Examples are found in genera such as Thalassia and Zostera. Although most aquatic plants can reproduce by flowering and setting seed, many also have extensive asexual reproduction by means of rhizomes, turions, and fragments in general.
Nelumbo is a genus of aquatic plants with large, showy flowers resembling the water lily, but not closely related to it. It is commonly called lotus, though this name may be applied to other genera, and there is an unrelated genus Lotus. The generic name is derived from the Sinhalese word Nelum. There are only two known living species in the genus. The sacred lotus (N. nucifera) is native to Asia, and is the better known of the two. It is commonly cultivated, and also used in Chinese medicine and cooking. This species is the national flower of Egypt, India and Vietnam. The American lotus (N. lutea) is native to North America and the Caribbean. Horticultural hybrids have been produced between these two geographically separated species. A third, extinct species, N. aureavallis, is known from Eocene fossils from North Dakota, United States.