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"Padma" redirects here. For other uses, see Padma (disambiguation).
"Lotus Flower" redirects here. For the Woody Shaw album, see Lotus Flower (Woody Shaw album). For the Radiohead song, see Lotus Flower (song).
Nelumbo nucifera
Sacred lotus Nelumbo nucifera.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
Order: Proteales
Family: Nelumbonaceae
Genus: Nelumbo
Species: N. nucifera
Binomial name
Nelumbo nucifera
  • Nelumbium speciosum Willd.
  • Nymphaea nelumbo

Nelumbo nucifera (পদ্ম), known by numerous common names including Indian lotus, sacred lotus, bean of India, or simply lotus, is one of two species of aquatic plant in the family Nelumbonaceae. The Linnaean binomial Nelumbo nucifera (Gaertn.) is the currently recognized name for this species, which has been classified under the former names, Nelumbium speciosum (Willd.) and Nymphaea nelumbo, among others. Names other than Nelumbo nucifera (Gaertn.) are obsolete synonyms and should not be used in current works. This plant is an aquatic perennial. Under favorable circumstances its seeds may remain viable for many years, with the oldest recorded lotus germination being from that of seeds 1,300 years old recovered from a dry lakebed in northeastern China.[1]

A common misconception is referring to the lotus as a water lily (Nymphaea), an entirely different plant, as can be seen in the center of the flowers. Nymphaea lacks the structure that goes on to form the distinctive circular seed pod in the Nelumbo nucifera.[citation needed]

Native to Tropical Asia and Queensland, Australia,[2][3] it is commonly cultivated in water gardens. It is also the national flower of India and Vietnam.


See also: Nelumbo

While all plant taxonomy systems unanimously agree that this species belongs in the genus Nelumbo, the systems disagree as to which family Nelumbo should be placed in, or whether the genus should belong in its own unique family and order.


Flower bud

The roots of lotus are planted in the soil of the pond or river bottom, while the leaves float on top of the water surface or are held well above it. The flowers are usually found on thick stems rising several centimeters above the leaves. The plant normally grows up to a height of about 150 cm and a horizontal spread of up to 3 meters, but some unverified reports place the height as high as over 5 meters. The leaves may be as large as 60 cm in diameter, while the showy flowers can be up to 20 cm in diameter.

Researchers report that the lotus has the remarkable ability to regulate the temperature of its flowers to within a narrow range just as humans and other warmblooded animals do.[4] Dr. Roger S. Seymour and Dr. Paul Schultze-Motel, physiologists at the University of Adelaide in Australia, found that lotus flowers blooming in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens maintained a temperature of 30–35 °C (86–95 °F), even when the air temperature dropped to 10 °C (50 °F). They suspect the flowers may be doing this to attract coldblooded insect pollinators. The study, published in the journal Nature, is the latest discovery in the field of thermoregulation, heat-producing, plants. Two other species known to be able to regulate their temperature include Symplocarpus foetidus and Philodendron selloum.

An individual lotus can live for over a thousand years and has the rare ability to revive into activity after stasis. In 1994, a seed from a sacred lotus, dated at roughly 1,300 years old ± 270 years, was successfully germinated.[5][6]

As mentioned earlier, the traditional Sacred Lotus is only distantly related to Nymphaea caerulea, but possesses similar chemistry. Both Nymphaea caerulea and Nelumbo nucifera contain the alkaloids nuciferine and aporphine.

The genome of the sacred lotus was sequenced in May 2013.[7][8][9]


Boiled, sliced lotus roots used in various Asian cuisines
Lotus root, cooked, no salt
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 278 kJ (66 kcal)
16.02 g
Sugars 0.5.2 g
Dietary fiber 3.1 g
0.07 g
1.58 g
Thiamine (B1)
0.127 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.01 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.3 mg
0.302 mg
Vitamin B6
0.218 mg
Folate (B9)
8 μg
25.4 mg
Vitamin C
27.4 mg
Trace metals
26 mg
0.9 mg
22 mg
0.22 mg
78 mg
363 mg
45 mg
0.33 mg
Other constituents
Water 81.42 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

The distinctive dried seed heads, which resemble the spouts of watering cans, are widely sold throughout the world for decorative purposes and for dried flower arranging.

The flowers, seeds, young leaves, and "roots" (rhizomes) are all edible. In Asia, the petals are sometimes used for garnish, while the large leaves are used as a wrap for food, not frequently eaten (for example, as a wrapper for zongzi). In Korea, the leaves and petals are used as a tisane. Yeonkkotcha (연꽃차) is made with dried petals of white lotus and yeonipcha (연잎차) is made with the leaves. Young lotus stems are used as a salad ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. The rhizome (called ǒu () in pinyin Chinese, ngau in Cantonese, thambou in Manipuri, kamal kakri in Hindi, renkon (レンコン, 蓮根 in Japanese), yeongeun (연근 in Korean) is used as a vegetable in soups, deep-fried, stir-fried, and braised dishes and the roots are also used in traditional Asian herbal medicine. Petals, leaves, and rhizome can also all be eaten raw, but there is a risk of parasite transmission (e.g., Fasciolopsis buski): it is therefore recommended that they be cooked before eating.

Lotus rootlets are often pickled with rice vinegar, sugar, chili and/or garlic. It has a crunchy texture with sweet-tangy flavours. In Asian cuisine, it is popular with salad, prawns, sesame oil and/or coriander leaves. Lotus roots have been found to be rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, copper, and manganese, while very low in saturated fat.[citation needed]

The stamens can be dried and made into a fragrant herbal tea called liánhuā cha (蓮花) in Chinese, or (particularly in Vietnam) used to impart a scent to tea leaves. This Vietnamese lotus tea is called trà sen, chè sen, or chè ướp sen. The lotus seeds or nuts (called liánzĭ, 蓮子; or xiān liánzĭ, 鲜莲子, in Chinese) are quite versatile, and can be eaten raw or dried and popped like popcorn, phool makhana. They can also be boiled until soft and made into a paste, or boiled with dried longans and rock sugar to make a tong sui (sweet soup). Combined with sugar, lotus seed paste becomes one of the most common ingredients used in pastries such as mooncakes, daifuku, and rice flour pudding.[10]

In South Indian states, the Lotus Stem is sliced, marinated with salt to dry, and the dried slices are fried and used as a side dish. In Kerala and Tamil Nadu, this end product is called " Thamara Vathal". In Sri Lanka, the sliced Lotus Stem curry is a popular dish called "Nelum Ala". In Vietnam, the bitter tasting germs of the lotus seeds are also made into a tisane (trà tim sen).

A unique fabric from the lotus plant fibers is produced only at Inle lake, Union of Myanmar and is used for weaving special robes for Buddha images called kya thingahn (lotus robe).

Cultural significance[edit]

Main article: Padma (attribute)
Hindu goddess Lakshmi holding and standing on a lotus.

From ancient times the lotus has been a divine symbol in Asian traditions representing the virtues of sexual purity and non-attachment.

Hindus revere it with the divinities Vishnu and Lakshmi often portrayed on a pink lotus in iconography. In the representation of Vishnu as Padmanabha (Lotus navel), a lotus issues from his navel with Brahma on it. Goddess Sarasvati is portrayed on a white-colored lotus.

Often used as an example of divine beauty, 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. In Hindu iconography, other deities, like Ganga and Ganesha are often depicted with lotus flowers as their seats.

The lotus plant is cited extensively within Puranic and Vedic literature, for example:

One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water.

Bhagavad Gita 5.10:

In Chinese culture Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi wrote:

I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.

Chinese: 予独爱莲之出淤泥而不染。[11]

Most deities of Asian religions are depicted as seated on a lotus flower. In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of the body, speech, and mind as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. According to legend[citation needed], Gautama Buddha was born with the ability to walk, and lotus flowers bloomed everywhere he stepped.

In the classical written and oral literature of many Asian cultures the lotus is present in figurative form, representing elegance, beauty, perfection, purity and grace, being often used in poems and songs as an allegory for ideal feminine attributes. In Sanskrit the word lotus (padma पद्म) has many synonyms. Since the lotus thrives in water, ja (denoting birth) is added to synonyms of water to derive some synonyms for the lotus, like ambuja (ambu= water + ja=born of), neeraj (neera=water + ja= born of), pankaj, pankaja, kamal, kamala, kunala, aravind, arvind, nalin,nalini and saroja[12] and names derived from the lotus, like padmavati (possessing lotuses) or padmini (full of lotuses).[13] These names and derived versions are often used to name girls, and to a lesser extent boys, in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, as well as in many other countries influenced by Indic culture, like Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos.

Drawing in turn on these beliefs, the international Bahá'í community adopted this symbolism in the design of the Lotus Temple in New Delhi, India.

Other uses[edit]

Fruit of Nelumbo nucifera; the dried seed cup is commonly used in flower arrangements.

Chemical composition[edit]

The flavonol miquelianin (Quercetin 3-O-glucuronide), as well as the alkaloids (+)-1(R)-coclaurine and (-)-1(S)-norcoclaurine, can be found in the leaves of N. nucifera.[14] The plant also contains nuciferine and aporphine.

See also[edit]

Vishnu holding the lotus, also sitting on it and wearing a lotus-bud crown.


  1. ^ Shen-Miller, J.; Schopf, J. W.; Harbottle, G.; Cao, R.-j.; Ouyang, S.; Zhou, K.-s.; Southon, J. R.; Liu, G.-h. (2002). "Long-living lotus: Germination and soil -irradiation of centuries-old fruits, and cultivation, growth, and phenotypic abnormalities of offspring". American Journal of Botany 89 (2): 236–47. doi:10.3732/ajb.89.2.236. PMID 21669732. 
  2. ^ Perry, F. Flowers of the World Bonanza Books, 1972. p. 192-193
  3. ^ Serventy, V; Raymond, R. Lakes & Rivers of Australia Summit Books, 1980. p. 102-103
  4. ^ CAROL KAESUK YOONPublished: October 01, 1996 (1996-10-01). "Heat of Lotus Attracts Insects And Scientists". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  5. ^ Shen-Miller et al; Mudgett, M. B.; William Schopf, J.; Clarke, S.; Berger, R. (1995). "Exceptional seed longevity and robust growth: Ancient sacred lotus from China". American Journal of Botany 82 (11): 1367–1380. doi:10.2307/2445863. JSTOR 2445863. 
  6. ^ Shen-Miller et al (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. Retrieved 2010-02-03. "Sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) has been cultivated as a crop in Asia for thousands of years. An ~1300-yr-old lotus fruit, recovered from an originally cultivated but now dry lakebed in northeastern China, is the oldest germinated and directly 14C-dated fruit known. In 1996, we traveled to the dry lake at Xipaozi Village, China, the source of the old viable fruits." 
  7. ^ Ray Ming, Robert VanBuren, Yanling Liu, Mei Yang, Yuepeng Han, et al. Genome of the long-living sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn.). Genome Biology, 2013; 14 (5): R41 DOI: 10.1186/gb-2013-14-5-r41
  8. ^ "Sacred Lotus Genome Sequence Enlightens Scientists". Science Daily. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  9. ^ Stuart Wolpert (10 May 2013). "Scientists sequence genome of 'sacred lotus,' which likely holds anti-aging secrets". UCLA Newsroom. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  10. ^ Dharmananda, Subhuti. "itmonline". itmonline. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  11. ^ "周敦颐:《爱莲说》". Book.qq.com. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  12. ^ Indian baby names (English)
  13. ^ Sanskrit-based names (English)
  14. ^ Kashiwada, Y.; Aoshima, A.; Ikeshiro, Y.; Chen, Y. P.; Furukawa, H.; Itoigawa, M.; Fujioka, T.; Mihashi, K.; Cosentino, L. M.; Morris-Natschke, S. L.; Lee, K. H. (2005). "Anti-HIV benzylisoquinoline alkaloids and flavonoids from the leaves of Nelumbo nucifera, and structure–activity correlations with related alkaloids". Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry 13 (2): 443–448. doi:10.1016/j.bmc.2004.10.020. PMID 15598565.  edit

External links[edit]

Media related to Nelumbo nucifera at Wikimedia Commons

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