Meet The Plants
- IUCN: not evaluated
- USFWS: None
Species Author: Gaertn.
Vernacular: Indian Lotus, Sacred Lotus, Lian Ou - Chinese, Lin Ngau - Chinese, Hasu - Japanese, Renkon - Japanese, Yun Gun - Korean
Synonyms: Nelumbium nelumbo
Sacred lotus, known by the scientific name Nelumbo nucifera, is an aquatic herb with submerged horizontal stems. The leaves have long stalks that join the leaf in the center of the blade and the leaf blade either floats on the surface or emerges above the water. The veins diverge from the center, splitting into two as they progress towards the leaf margin. The flowers emerge above the waterline and are diurnal, opening for two days and closing overnight. The flowers contain 2-6 white outer sepals and 10-30 spirally arranged white, pink, or red petals. When the flowers open, a large number of yellow stamens, which the pollen producing structures, can be seen. The base of the Sacred lotus flower, known as the receptacle, expands and becomes fleshy during maturation and surrounds the ovary of the flower, which is made of many distinct compartments. An apical pore releases a single seed from each of these compartments within the dry flat-topped fruit. The brown seeds are hard-shelled and are 0.8 cm long. (Staples, G. W. and D. R. Herbst. 2005. A Tropical Garden Flora: Plants cultivated in the Hawaiian Islands and other tropical places. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaiâ€™i.)
Lotus flowers are considered sacred in China, Tibet, and India and the lotus flower is symbolic in both Hindu and Buddhist religions. In the Hindu religion the blossoms are associated with creation mythology and the unfolding petals are considered symbolic of fertility, beauty, and prosperity. Buddha is believed to have been born on a lotus leaf and in Buddhist symbolism the wheel-like mandala, based on the form of the lotus blossom, represents the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Both Hindu and Buddhist deities are depicted seated in the lotus flowers and lotus motifs adorn sculptures, buildings, temples, and paintings. (Neal, M.C. 1965. In Gardens of Hawaiâ€˜i. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, HI.) (Staples, G. W. and D. R. Herbst. 2005. A Tropical Garden Flora: Plants cultivated in the Hawaiian Islands and other tropical places. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaiâ€™i.)
Nelumbo nucifera, is native to eastern Asia. This species has been cultivated since ancient times therefore its native distribution, prior to human influence, is difficult to determine though it may have extended to Australia and west to India. Nelumbo contains only two species, the other, Nelumbo lutea is native to eastern North America, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Mexico. (Staples, G. W. and D. R. Herbst. 2005. A Tropical Garden Flora: Plants cultivated in the Hawaiian Islands and other tropical places. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaiâ€™i.)
Many parts of the Sacred lotus are edible including the rhizomes, young leaves, flowers, and the seeds. The rhizomes, or underground stems, contain large spaces that allow for air storage for the submerged plant structures. The starchy rhizomes are very nutritious and can be eaten either raw or cooked. The leaves are edible and are used to wrap food. The seeds are also starchy and can be eaten raw, dried, or used as a paste in cooking though the bitter germ must be removed before eating. (Neal, M.C. 1965. In Gardens of Hawaiâ€˜i. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, HI.) (Staples, G. W. and D. R. Herbst. 2005. A Tropical Garden Flora: Plants cultivated in the Hawaiian Islands and other tropical places. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaiâ€™i.)
Sacred lotus is pollinated by beetles. The flowers produce heat and maintain temperatures between 30 and 35oC during flowering. Heat production may enhance the evaporation of floral scent to attract insects and provide a reward for these pollinators that require temperatures above 30oC to initiate flight. (Seymour, R.S. and P. Schultze-Motel, 1996. Thermoregulating lotus flowers. Nature 383: 305.)
Lotus plants grow easily in waterlogged and inundated habitats. The rhizomes allow the plants to spread easily and are difficult to remove once they are established.
Seeds of Nelumbo nucifera were recovered from an dry lakebed in northeastern China and have been dated to between 200 and 450 years old. Many of the seeds recovered were shown to be viable and were germinated to produce new plants. These seeds are amongst the oldest viable seeds currently known. (Priestley, D.A. & M.A. Posthumus, 1982. Extreme longevity of lotus seeds from Pulantien. Nature 299:148-149.) (Shen-Miller, J. J.W. Schopf, G. Harbottle, R. Cao, S. Ouyang, K. Zhou, J.R. Southon, and G. Liu, 2002. Long-living lotus: germination and soil gamma-irradiation of centuries-old fruits, and cultivation, growth, and phenotypic abnormalities of offspring. American Journal of Botany 89:236-247.)