From the Super Mario Wiki, the Mario encyclopedia
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A Lava Lotus is an artificial flower that lives underwater in Super Mario Bros. 3. They are capable of creating and storing lava balls under their transparent leaves and attack by opening up to release them. The fireballs can go through platforms and make navigating underwater difficult. The number they shoot out is random and can be up to five at a time. The fireballs travel rather slowly and in a straight line from their point of release. They can only be defeated by Hammer Mario, Hammer Luigi, or a Starman.
Lava Lotuses were given a land counterpart, the Volcano Lotus, in Super Mario World, which did not feature Lava Lotuses. They had a very similar attack pattern, but they were terrestrial instead of aquatic. These Volcano Plants also appeared in Super Princess Peach, leaving Lava Lotuses with only one game appearance (not including Super Mario Bros. 3's reissues).
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