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Sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Lise Servant)
Nelumbo nucifera
  • Nelumbo nucifera
  • Nelumbo nucifera
  • Nelumbo nucifera
  • Nelumbo nucifera

Associated with the sacred

The lotus is the most admired of all aquatic plants, with its elegant bearing, graceful flowers and rich traditional heritage.

The lotus is associated with the creation of the world, purity and beauty. It is one of the best-known symbols in Asia, especially in China and India, and was also very important to the Egyptians and ancient Greeks.

The plant plays a key role in Indian mythology, where it is associated with the deities Vishnu, Brahma and Laksmi. For Buddhists, the lotus is a symbol of purity, for its flower rises immaculate from its muddy bed. In China, it symbolizes the Confucian model of the “superior man” and is also one of the noble flowers.

Two disctinct species

The lotus Nelumbo, is classified as the sole member of its botanical family, the Nelumbonaceae.

There are two species of lotus:

  • The sacred lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, also known as the East Indian lotus, Oriental lotus or lily of the Nile, is native to southern Asia and can grow at altitudes of up to 1,600 meters.
  • The American lotus, Nelumbo lutea, is native to a region stretching from southeastern North America to the northern parts of South America. Smaller than the sacred lotus, it bears scented, pale yellow flowers.

Description of the lotus

The lotus is a perennial plant growing from a thick rhizome. Its rounded leaves can reach up to 50 cm in diameter. The first leaves that appear, few in number, are flat and float on the surface.

They are followed by thicker, funnel-shaped leaves with slightly wavy edges that may stand from 50 cm to two meters above the water. The leaves are coated with a film, upon which water forms magnificent, glittering droplets.

The flower stalk rises above the leaves, ending in large, sweet-smelling, white or pink blooms, appearing one at a time. Each flower lasts from two to five days and darkens with age. Ranging in diameter from 15 to 25 cm, lotus flowers are termed single when they have fewer than 25 petals, semi-double if they have 25 to 50 petals, and double if they have more.

After blooming, the petals fall, leaving a cone-shaped seed head that resembles the rose of a watering can. Each of its 15 to 20 openings contains a fruit.

Lotus of the Jardin botanique

You can see lotuses at the Chinese Garden, the Aquatic Garden and the Japanese Garden from mid-August to mid-September.

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