Several Lotus species are perennial forage legumes which tolerate waterlogging, but knowledge of responses to partial or complete shoot submergence is scant. We evaluated the responses of 15 Lotus accessions to partial and complete shoot submergence and variations in traits associated with tolerance and recovery after de-submergence. Accessions of Lotus tenuis, L. corniculatus, L. pedunculatus and L. japonicus were raised for 43 d and then subjected to aerated root zone (control), deoxygenated stagnant root zone with shoots in air (stagnant), stagnant root zone with partial (75 %) and complete submergence of shoots, for 7 d. The recovery ability from complete submergence was also assessed. We found inter- and intra-specific variations in the stem extension responses (i.e. promoted or restricted compared to controls) depending on water depth. Eight of 15 accessions promoted the stem extension when in partial submergence, while three of those eight (all L. tenuis accessions) had a restricted stem extension when under complete submergence. Two accessions (belonging to L. corniculatus and L. penduculatus species) also promoted the stem extension under complete submergence. The accessions that attained better recovery in terms of leaves produced after de-submergence, were those that had high leaf and root sugar concentration at de-submergence, and high thickness and persistence of gas films on leaves during submergence (all L. tenuis accessions). We conclude that all Lotus accessions were able to tolerate 7 d of partial and complete shoot submergence, despite adopting different stem extension responses.