Seeds of Nelumbo nucifera do not imbibe water, and thus have physical dormancy (PY). However, a proportion of seeds are permeable to water, and so we hypothesized that variation in moisture content is a reason for the development of both permeable and impermeable seeds. The permeable proportion of seeds present in a lot collected from Suzhou, China, was separated using an imbibition test. The permeable proportion had an average moisture content of 15.6 %, compared with 8.5 % for impermeable seeds. Drying permeable seeds above silica gel to 10 % and 8 % f. wb., resulted in 77 and 100 % impermeable seeds, respectively, compared with no impermeable seeds at 15 % moisture content. Dried to 10 % moisture content, and incubated above water in an airtight container, 46 % of the seeds reverse impermeability. Permeable seeds with 15 % moisture content maintained above LiCl2 (RH=70 %) did not develop impermeability after three months of storage. The seeds dried to 6 % moisture content and stored above water in an airtight container showed no increase in moisture. Based on these results, we conclude that there is a strong relationship between moisture content and the onset of impermeability in this species.