Nelumbo nucifera, known by a number of names including Indian lotus, sacred lotus, "flower of Hindus and Buddhists bean of India, or simply lotus, is a plant in the Nelumbonaceae family. Botanically, Nelumbo nucifera (Gaertn.) may also be referred to by its former names, Nelumbium speciosum (Wild.) or Nymphaea nelumbo. 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 1300 years old recovered from a dry lakebed in northeastern China.
Nelumbo nucifera, Nymphaeaceae.
Figure 1. Indian lotus
The roots of Nelumbo nucifera are planted in the soil of the pond or river bottom, while the leaves float on top of the water surface. The flowers are usually found on thick stems rising several centimeters above the water. 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. 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 86 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, even when the air temperature dropped to 50 degrees. They suspect the flowers may be turning up the heat for the benefit of their coldblooded insect pollinators. The study, published in the journal Nature, is the latest discovery in the esoteric field of heat-producing plants. The very few other species known so far to be able to regulate their temperature include Skunk Cabbage and a Philodendron known as Elephant Ear..
Figure 2. White and blue lotus
From ancient times the lotus has been a divine symbol in Asian traditions representing sexual purity, a virtue.
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.