Scientific name

Nelumbo Adans.

Common names

sacred lotus, lotus lily, American lotus



Could be confused with

Nymphaea, Victoria

Native distribution

Asia, Australia, North America

Species commonly cultivated

Nelumbo lutea (Willd.) Pers. (northeastern North America)

N. nucifera Gaertn. (Asia to Australia)

Adventive distribution

introduced in ornamental ponds in numerous countries around the world

Weed status

sometimes considered troublesome; blocks waterways


attached, floating, or emergent, broad-leaved plant

Brief description

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.

Natural habitat

still waters of rivers, lakes, and ponds

Additional comments

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.