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Interesting Facts About the Lotus Plant - Nelumbo nucifera

A graduate in botany, Nithya Venkat enjoys writing about plants that help sustain life on planet Earth.

The Lotus Plant - Nelumbo nucifera

The Lotus Plant - Nelumbo nucifera

The lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) is an herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the genus Nelumbo and family Nelumbonaceae. It also referred to as sacred lotus, Indian lotus, and sacred waterlily. It can be found growing in India, China, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Australia.

The lotus flower is sacred in India and China. In eastern cultures, the lotus symbolizes spiritual enlightenment and rebirth. In Buddhism, the lotus is associated with enlightenment. The artforms in Hinduism and Buddhism use the lotus as a pedestal for divine figures.

The lotus flower is the earliest occurring angiosperm in the world. During the Ice Age, most plants in the northern hemisphere became extinct but the lotus survived. Lotus flowers are known as living fossils.

Description of the Lotus Plant

The lotus plant is an aquatic herbaceous perennial plant. It belongs to the family Nelumbonaceae. Native to Asia it can grow to a height of 3 – 6 feet and a spread of 3 – 4 feet. The flowers are pink or white in color and bloom between June to July.

The lotus plant grows in shallow muddy waters rooted to the soil by thick rhizomes with fibrous roots. It produces leaves and flowers directly from the root system.

Lotus Leaf

Lotus Leaf

Lotus Leaf

The leaf of the lotus is rounded, cupped upward and is found floating on water. The margins of the leaf are smooth and wavy. The leaf is depressed in the middle and connected with the petiole at this point.

The leaf has veins radiating from the center towards the margin of the leaf. As they approach the margin of the leaf, the veins fork. The petiole (leaf stalk) is light green, hairless and has hollow chambers inside that keep the petiole erect and convey oxygen to the root system.

The leaves have a waxy coating that prevents the leaf from becoming wet and submerging in water. The waxy coating repels water droplets. Due to the repelling effect, the water droplets roll off the surface of the leaf. The rolling droplets also help to clean any dirt present on the leaf surface.

Sacred Lotus

Sacred Lotus

Lotus Flower

The flowers of the Lotus plant are large, fragrant and pink or white in color. They appear in summer above the foliage on thick stems. Each flower is held 6 inches above the water by stalks (peduncles). Each flower is 4 – 10 inches and has about 15 petals with a golden yellow receptacle surrounded by a dense ring of golden yellow stamens.

The receptacle at the center of the flower is shaped like an upside-down cone. Along its flat upper surface, there are 15 – 35 short styles that look like small bumps. The flowers have a short life span they open in the morning and begin to lose their petals by afternoon.

The flower develops into a seed pod that measures about 3 inches to 5 inches in diameter. The seed pod becomes dark brown when they mature. On the upper surface of the seed pod, the individual seeds are exposed in small chambers. Soon the seedpod bends down to release the seeds into the water. The seeds of the sacred lotus can remain viable for several centuries.

Each flower blooms for about three days, opening in the morning and closing at night. The flowers ripen into nut-like fruits that are embedded in the flat surface of a conical receptacle that is 2 -3 inches in diameter. The receptacles become woody as they dry. The rhizomes, leaves, and seeds of the lotus are edible and used in Asian cooking.

Lotus Flower Receptacle with Seeds

Lotus Flower Receptacle with Seeds

Fresh Lotus Seed

Fresh Lotus Seed

How does pollination take place?

Beetles act as pollinators for the lotus flowers. These flowers produce heat to attract beetles. Lotus flowers have a life span of three or four days.

Beetles are attracted by the abundant supply of pollen to feed on and scents that signal where the food is available. To attract beetles, the lotus flowers generate heat by breaking down starches that increase the temperature during the evening and early morning hours. The heat also helps to spread the fragrance of the lotus, indicating the readiness of flowers for the pollinators.

On the first day, the flowers open partially, exposing the tips of the stamens that release a scent signaling to the pollinators that the pollen is ready to be released and the stigmas are ready to receive the pollen.

The second day the flowers reopen, fully exposing the stamens and stigmas. Now the flower is open to visiting beetles. The stamens release the pollen at this stage. As the petals close at the end of the day, the beetles are trapped inside the flower.

The beetles are trapped inside the flower in a warm environment and feed on the pollen. The beetles that have already visited other flowers pollinate the flower as they feed on the pollen.

On the third day, the flowers open again, but the stigmas are dry, and the stamens begin to wilt. On the following days, the petals and stamens fall off, leaving the receptacles behind with the developing seeds. The fruits are the conical pod with embedded seeds in it.

When the seeds are ripe, they become loose in the pod and the pod tips over releasing the seeds into the water.

Dried Lotus Seeds

Dried Lotus Seeds

Viability of Lotus Seeds

The seeds of the lotus remain viable for thousands of years due to the hardy protective seed coat. The coat is built to prevent water and air from entering and destroying the viability of the seeds.

It was found that the seed coat had enzymes that could repair any damage to the seed coat, thereby keeping the embryonic tissue alive and ready to germinate under the right conditions.

Uses of the Lotus Plant

The lotus is grown in ponds and water gardens as an ornamental plant. All parts of the lotus plant are edible. The flowers are dried and used as a seasoning. The stem of the lotus is used in soups and salads. The seeds are roasted and salted or candied.

The oils extracted from the lotus flower are used in perfumes. The fragrance of the lotus flower is supposed to bring about feelings of euphoria and heightened awareness.

The lotus plant is used in many skincare products. It is rich in antioxidants and helps to prevent cellular damage. It is intensely hydrating and helps to increase the elasticity of the skin, thereby erasing fine lines and wrinkles on the skin.

Lotus essential oil helps to prevent premature graying of hair. The oil extracted from the lotus plant stimulates the melanin cells that produce the pigments that give color to the hair.

All parts of the lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) are used in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat health issues. The leaves are used to treat fever and bleeding disorders. A paste of the leaves helps to reduce skin inflammation and fever.

The stem is used to treat skin diseases like fungal and ringworm infection, diarrhea, dysentery, etc. The roots of the lotus plant are rich in iron and help to prevent the development of anemia.

Lotus seeds help to control chronic diarrhea. These seeds also contain an antiaging enzyme that helps to repair damaged protein.


References

Nelumbo nucifera from Missouri Botanical Garden

Flower Thermoregulation from Annals of Botany

Seed Coat and Enzymes Protect Seeds from Ask Nature

Why the Lotus Flower is a Plant Celebrity from earth.com

Latest Studies on Lotus from NCBI


© 2019 Nithya Venkat

Comments

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on November 01, 2020:

Thank you Umesh.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on October 31, 2020:

Very informative article.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 15, 2020:

Hello Sneha, happy to know that you are passionate about growing water lilies and lotus plants. Thank you for your visit.

Sneha Bhat from India on May 14, 2020:

Hello Madam, this topic attracted me more because my passion is to grow waterllies and lotus... Nice article about lotus and its uses...

Li-Jen Hew on January 06, 2020:

Hi Nithya. Your article is like an artistic poem, embodying the complex beauty of the lotus flower - the individual components like the receptacle and style. It is easy to forget the uses of the lotus flower, when it is floating still on the pond. The lotus flower becomes prettier when its hidden power is revealed. Thank you for reminding us!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 30, 2019:

Genna the lotus plant is beautiful and is a great addition to many delicious recipes. Thank you for your visit.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 30, 2019:

Thank you for your visit and comments Audrey. Happy New Year to you!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 30, 2019:

I totally agree manatita44,

the lotus plant has ethereal qualities. Lotus oils are great, you should get them. Happy New Year to you!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 30, 2019:

Thank you, Lorna. The lotus plant is beautiful and has great many uses.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 30, 2019:

Thank you for your visit Devika. I am happy you got to know more about the lotus plant.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 30, 2019:

It must have been a great experience to see the lotus plants in the pond. Oh yes, it must be a great place for their respite! Thank you for your visit and comments.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 30, 2019:

Thank you, Flourish. I am happy that you got to know more about the Lotus plant.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 30, 2019:

I am happy that you have learned about the lotus plant through this article. Thank you, for your visit Liz.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 30, 2019:

Thank you, for your Linda. I totally agree the lotus plant is amazing.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 30, 2019:

Thank you Peggy, there are many delicious recipes for the lotus plant. Thank you for your visit and the pin.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 30, 2019:

Thank you, Dora for your visit. There are many beautiful poems on the Lotus.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 30, 2019:

Thank you, Chitrangada, for your visit and comments. Lotus holds an important place in our culture, in my house we use the lotus flower for worshipping during special poojas. Phool makhana is my favorite too!

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on December 29, 2019:

The Lotus is such a beautiful flower -- I had no idea that parts of the plant were edible! Thank you for this interesting article.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on December 28, 2019:

Thank you for this beautiful presentation. There is so much good information about the lotus plant. I'm impressed with its many uses. And who knew that parts of the lotus were edible?

Happy New Year Nithya!

manatita44 from london on December 28, 2019:

Beautiful Hub. The lotus is indeed a spiritual flower and features in quite a few of my Hubs or photographs. I feel that it represents light and detachment amongst other ethereal qualities. Perhaps I also need some of its oils. Happy New Year, Nithya.

Lorna Lamon on December 27, 2019:

A fascinating and interesting article Nithya about this wonderful plant. I had no idea the plant had so many uses. Great write.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 27, 2019:

The lotus plant has many interesting facts as you have informed us. Most of the facts were mot known to me. Informative and unique to me.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 26, 2019:

This is a lovely little article. My first declared major in college was botany, but I had to take Chemistry, so I switched to English. I still love plants very much and garden as a hobby.

My first encounter with a lotus was on the Sivananda Yoga Farm in Grass Valley, California, during the late 70s. It was growing in a pond there. A small worship site was built around it. I had never thought about eating any part of one.

I loved the fact that the pollinating beetles get trapped in the closing petals. That must be the most exotic bed for their respites at night!

Thank you for sharing.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 26, 2019:

This has tons of facts about the lotus flower that I had not heard before. Surprising and excellent read.

Liz Westwood from UK on December 26, 2019:

This is a very well-illustrated and informative article. I have learnt a lot about the lotus plant.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 25, 2019:

The lotus is a beautiful and interesting plant. Thank you for sharing so many facts about it.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 25, 2019:

This was so informative! I had no idea that so many parts of the lotus plant were edible, nor that the seeds could be viable for thousands of years. Amazing! Thanks for writing about the lotus plant. Pinning this to my plants' board.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 25, 2019:

My introduction to the lotus was through a poem in school. Thanks for this lesson on the leaf, the flower and the plant. Very interesting!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 24, 2019:

Excellent article about the lotus flower. Very well presented with great information.

Lotus has great significance in our culture, in prayers and in symbolism. While going through your article, I realised, how much we use each part of this sacred plant. Lotus seeds or phoolmakhana is one of my favourite snack. So many interesting recipes can be made with it.

Thanks for sharing this excellent and informative article.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 24, 2019:

Thank you for your appreciation and comments, you made my day.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 24, 2019:

Ruby you can grow them in ponds in warm climatic regions. Thank you for your visit.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 24, 2019:

Thank you Bill for your continuous support, much appreciated.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 24, 2019:

Thank you srsddn for your visit and comment.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 24, 2019:

Yes, your grandma will have in-depth knowledge about this plant. We bow to God for his wondrous creations.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on December 24, 2019:

Nithya, I found this very interesting. The sacred lotus is my wife’s favourite plant. It is amazing and useful in so many ways, and as stated in your article is a true living fossil. Thank you for the informative article.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 24, 2019:

The sacred lotus plant is so beautiful. I wish we could grow them in America. Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 24, 2019:

I suspect I am somewhat of a nerd, but I love articles about biology and the other sciences. Keep them coming, please.

srsddn from Dehra Dun, India on December 24, 2019:

Beautifully described. Very useful information about each part of Lotus. Thanks for sharing.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 24, 2019:

Totally fascinating I copied some text to print out. Somehow they grow them in KOI ponds in my area. Don't know the science there but they have sprinklers that go off at night.

I did not know all the qualities in them. I will inquire and take Grandma Tam to our favorite herb place and get some. From Vietnam I am sure she knows this stuff. She is my plant guru.

Stamens and stigmas and beetles is so cool.

We bow to are God for such wonderment.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 24, 2019:

Thank you Shaloo for your visit and comments.

Shaloo Walia from India on December 24, 2019:

quite informative!