With bright flowers emerging from the water, contrasted by the rounded geometry of simple floating leaves, water lilies and lotuses have inspired artists and poets, symbolizing deep cultural meanings for centuries. Exploring the beauty of a water lily or lotus plant through photography is a welcome creative challenge.
These aquatic plants are a lovely subject for floral photography, and they make stunning botanical prints full of reflections and texture. The minimal natural forms translate well to fine art interpretations. The flowers bloom in many colours and a single water lily blossom or lotus flower can be both striking and serene.
Water lily or lotus, what’s the difference?
Water lilies (Nymphaeaceae) and lotus (Nelumbo) are most easily identifed by observing how they grow. Most water lily flowers and leaves float at the surface of the water, while lotus flowers and leaves emerge to rise above the water’s surface on longer stems. Both of these families of aquatic plants prefer shallow, calm or slow-moving watery habitats, such as ponds, lakes, and streams.
Water lily & lotus flowers from around the world
I’ve been working in my archives lately and have come across several images of these remarkable plants and flowers. Captured over the years, my water lily photography may not be quite like the magnificent impressionist representations such as those found in Claude Monet’s water lily paintings, but I can see why he was drawn to repeatedly explore their beauty.
My water lily and lotus photography has mostly been inspired while in botanical gardens, and the images in this post include examples from New Plymouth, New Zealand and San Francisco, California. There are also wild pond lilies (Nuphar) from Canada seen on a recent summer hike in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba.
Colourful symbolism & deeper meaning
Representing rebirth, enlightenment and hope, water lily and lotus flowers also carry different meanings depending on the colour of their petals; pink for knowledge, white for peace, purple for power. The blooming petals tend to be solitary flowers against lush rafts of leaves, or reflected in dark, glassy water. Water lily flowers are the official state or national flowers of several countries, and their leaves are potent symbols often used in heraldry designs. I think of them as a peaceful plant, thriving in the transitional space between water and air. Do water lilies hold a special meaning for you?