Lotus - Nelumbo
Nelumbo is a genus of aquatic plants with large, showy, water lily-like flowers commonly known as lotus or sacred lotus. The generic name is derived from the Sinhalese word Nelum. There are two species in the genus, the better known of which, N. nucifera, or "Sacred Lotus," is the well-known National Flower of India.
There is residual disagreement over which family the genus should be placed in. Traditional classification systems recognized Nelumbo as part of the Nymphaeaceae (water lily) family, but traditional taxonomists were likely misled by evolutionary convergences associated with an evolutionary shift from a terrestrial to an aquatic life style. In the older classification systems it was recognized under the order Nymphaeales or Nelumbonales. Nelumbo is currently recognized as its own family, Nelumbonaceae, as one of several distinctive families in the eudicot order Proteales. Its closest living relatives are shrubs or trees (Proteaceae and Platanaceae).
These plants are unrelated to the bird's-foot trefoils and deer-vetches of the genus Lotus.
Nelumbo nucifera is known by a number of common names, including blue lotus, Indian lotus, sacred lotus, bean of India, and sacred water-lily. Botanically, Nelumbo nucifera (Gaertn.) may also be referred to by its former names, Nelumbium speciosum (Wild.) or Nymphaea nelumbo. This plant is an aquatic perennial, but if its seeds are preserved under favorable circumstances, they may remain viable for many years.
In Ancient Egypt, Nelumbo nucifera was unknown, being introduced only at the time of the Persian invasions, late in ancient Egyptian history. The ancient Egyptians venerated the blue water-lily, Nymphaea caerulea, which was sometimes known as the "blue lotus" or "sacred lotus".
Nelumbo nucifera was native to a huge area from modern Vietnam to Afghanistan, being spread widely as an ornamental and food plant. In 1787 it was first brought into horticulture in Western Europe as a stove-house water-lily under the patronage of Joseph Banks and can be seen in botanical garden collections where heating is provided. Today it is rare or extinct in the wild in Africa but widely naturalized in southern Asia and Australia, where it is commonly cultivated in water gardens. It is the National Flower of India and Vietnam.
Chinese people have long known that Lotus roots are a very healthy food and have been using them in this way for many centuries. Recent studies confirm this - Lotus roots were found to be rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, copper, and manganese while very low in saturated fat.
Hindus associate the lotus (Padma) blossom with creation mythology, and with the gods Vishnu, Brahma, and the goddesses Lakshmi and Sarasvati. From ancient times the lotus has been a divine symbol in Hindu tradition. It is often used as an example of divine beauty, for example Vishnu is often described as the 'Lotus-Eyed One'. Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise. Particularly Brahma and Lakshmi, the divinities of potence and wealth, have the lotus symbol associated with them. In Hindu iconography, deities often are depicted with lotus flowers as their seats. In Hindi it is called Kamal which is also a popular name for men, the female form is Kamala.
Nelumbo lutea, the American Lotus, also known as Yellow Lotus or Water-chinquapin, is a flowering plant of the order Proteales.
Like the Asian species Nelumbo nucifera, American lotus is an emergent aquatic plant. It grows in lakes and swamps, as well as areas subject to flooding. The roots are anchored in the mud, but the leaves and flowers emerge above the water's surface. The petioles of the leaves may extend as much as two meters (6 ft) and end in a broad round leaf blade.
Flowering begins in late spring and may continue into the summer. The flowers may be white to pale yellow, from which the species gets its epithet lutea (Latin for yellow).
The native distribution of the species in the southeastern United States, Mexico, Honduras, and the West Indies, but it has apparently been distributed northwards in the United States by Native Americans who carried the plant with them as a food source.
This plant has a large root that was used by Native Americans as a food source. This may be the plant called "macoupin" in Miami-Illinois.
It is widely planted in ponds for its foliage and flowers. American Lotus has established itself as a weed in some areas, spreading via creeping rhizomes and seeds. This species has been crossed with N. nucifera to create many hybrids. Seeds may be propagated by scarifying the pointed tip of the seed with a file then soaking in water, or by division of established plants.
Lotus - Nelumbo nucifera
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