Lotus

LotusLotus — Nelumbo is a genus of water flowers or water lilies commonly known as lotus . The word originates from the Sinhalese word Nelum. There are two species in the genus, one of which is the well-known National Flower of India. Taxonomists disagree as to exactly which family that the genus is in, with many saying that it is part of the Nymphaeaceae (water lily) family, and others saying that it is part of its own unique family, the Nelumbonaceae. However, even among those plant taxonomy systems which recognize the new family, there is disagreement as to which Order that it is in: Proteales, Nymphaeales, or a unique Nelumbonales order.

Nymphaea lotus, the Egyptian white lotus, is believed to be the original sacred lotus of ancient Egypt. It and the Egyptian blue lotus, Nymphaea caerulea, were often pictured in ancient Egyptian art. The white lotus is a shallow-water, night-blooming plant with a creeping rootstock (rhizome) that sends up long-stalked, nearly circular, dark green leathery leaves, which float on the surface. The flowers, up to 25 cm (10 in) across, remain open until midday. The blue lotus is a smaller, less showy day-blooming plant. The Indian blue lotus, Nymphaea stellata, differs from the blue Egyptian species largely in its leaves.

Nelumbo contains but two species. The American lotus, Nymphaea lutea, is found in the eastern half of the United States into southern Canada. It has thick, spreading rootstock and large bluish green circular leaves, up to 60 cm (2 ft) across, which are usually raised above the surface of the water. The pale-yellow flowers, up to 25 cm (10 in) across, usually open on three successive days. Both the seeds and the rootstock (rhizomes) were eaten by the Indians. The East Indian lotus, Nymphaea nucifera, found in southern Asia, was introduced into Egypt about 2,500 years ago but is no longer found in the Nile region. Its flowers are considered sacred by the Buddhists of India, Tibet, and China.

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