Nelumbo, commonly called Lotus, is a genus of aquatic plants containing only two species – Nelumbo nucifera and Nelumbo lutea, which belong to the Nelumbonaceae family. These plants are aquatic perennials native to tropical Asia and Australia (Nelumbo nucifera) and North America (Nelumbo lutea), growing in the mud of lagoons, lakes, swamps, ponds and waterlogged fields.
They have wide and disc-shaped leaves at or above the water surface, and beautiful flowers rising above the water. The flowers are large and usually found on thick stems. These beauties will attract birds and insects, as well as people!
The genus name is derived from the Sinhalese word “Nelum”, meaning blue.
The common name is derived from the Latin “lotus” and Greek “lotos”, name used for several plants before it came to mean Egyptian white lotus (Nymphaea lotus). Nelumbo nucifera is commonly called “Sacred Lotus” or “Indian Lotus”, while Nelumbo Lutea is also known as “American Lotus”.
The name Lotus is used as a common name for many species and genera in various botanical families. It is used for the specific genus in the family Fabaceae and also for other genera and species such as Saussurea genus (commonly known as “Snow Lotus”), Nelumbo genus (Nelumbo nucifera, Nelumbo lutea), certain species of Nymphaea genus (Nymphaea caerulea, Nymphaea lotus, Nymphaea nouchali), the species Ziziphus Lotus in the Ziziphus genus and the Diospyros Lotus, a species of the genus Diospyros.
The symbolism of this flower is different across the cultures and can symbolize purity, beauty, majesty, grace, fertility, wealth, knowledge, serenity, devotion, rebirth and divinity.
Interesting facts about Nelumbo:
Nelumbo species don’t have underwater leaves that are typical for the waterlily family (Nymphaeaceae). This is the main reason for classifying Nelumbo genus into its own separate family, the Nelumbonaceae.
Nelumbo nucifera in Asia
Nelumbo nucifera, also known as “Sacred Lotus” or “Indian Lotus”, is sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus and considered symbolic in a number of religions.
It is the national flower of India and has a significant role in the art and mythology of ancient India. It is a symbol of the culture and unity of this country.
The plant is also the national flower of Vietnam.
Nelumbo nucifera has been used for centuries in traditional Asian medicine to treat nausea, fever, diarrhoea and mushroom poisoning. It has also been used in treatment of gastritis, halitosis, hepatotoxicity, hemorrhoids, obesity, diabetes and cancer.
The plant is widely cultivated for food, beverages, but also for ornamental and therapeutic purposes.
Nelumbo nucifera has white or pink flowers, while Nelumbo lutea has yellow ones.
The leaves and flowers of Nelumbo nucifera are held on stems up to 2 metres (7 ft) tall. The Nelumbo lutea are almost the same size, ranging from 80 cm to 1,5 metres (3-5 ft) in height.
Both species need rich and loamy soil. The optimal soil pH is between 6.5 and 8.0.