sacred lotus, lotus lily, American lotus
Asia, Australia, North America
Species commonly cultivated
Nelumbo lutea (Willd.) Pers. (northeastern North America)
N. nucifera Gaertn. (Asia to Australia)
introduced in ornamental ponds in numerous countries around the world
sometimes considered troublesome; blocks waterways
attached, floating, or emergent, broad-leaved plant
Perennial, milky latex present. Stems dimorphic: slender, horizontal stolons or rhizomes, or thick storage rhizomes; rooted at nodes. Leaves floating (when immature) or emergent (when mature), peltate; petiole elongate (up to 3 m), bearing numerous small spines; leaf blade large, up to 1 m in diameter, veins palmate, not bearing spines; margin entire, dentate (if floating), or undulate. Inflorescence a large, solitary flower borne on an elongate, axillary, spineless pedicel. Flower bisexual; perianth segments 14-30; outer 2-5 segments sepal-like, inner petal-like, pink-white to yellow in color. Seeds large, hard, ovate, produced in a pithy receptacle. Dispersal by seed or rhizome fragments. Seed longevity up to several hundred years.
still waters of rivers, lakes, and ponds
Nelumbo contains only two species, but numerous ornamental varieties are cultivated worldwide. The rhizome and seeds of Nelumbo are used as a vegetable, and the dried receptacle is used medicinally as a source of quercetin, a compound exhibiting anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity.