Lotus (Nelumbo Nucifera)
Nelumbo nucifera, known by a number of names including Indian Lotus, Sacred Lotus, Bean of India, or simply Lotus, is a plant in the monogeneric family Nelumbonaceae. The Linnaean binomial Nelumbo nucifera (Gaertn.) is the currently recognized name for this species, which has been classified under the former names, Nelumbium speciosum (Willd.) and Nymphaea nelumbo, among others. Names other than Nelumbo nucifera (Gaertn.) are obsolete synonyms and should not be used in current works. 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 1,300 years old recovered from a dry lakebed in northeastern China.
A common misconception is referring to the lotus as a waterlily (Nymphaea), an entirely different plant as can be seen from the center of the flower, which clearly lacks the structure that goes on to form the distinctive circular seed pod in the Nelumbo nucifera.
The spiritual qualities of the lotus flower has found its way into Egyptian legends, Indian culture, and even Western faith. This is not surprising as the lotus flower is a potent symbol that grows strong and beautiful from the murkiest depths. Not to be mistaken with the water lily, lotus flowers bear fruit, but produce less nectar and come in fewer colors. The roots of the lotus are deeply imbedded into the bottom of river beds or ponds, while the flowers and leaves float atop the surface of the water. This plant is also thought to be one of only a few heat producing plants, and generally maintains a temperature around 86 to 95 degrees so as to lure cold blooded pollinators.
The lotus is the national flower of both Vietnam and India. In India the lotus flower has made its way deep into religious beliefs and in national folklore. The lotus is one of the eight auspicious symbols and is considered to be a symbol for the progress of the soul through muddy materialism, all the way to bright and sunny enlightenment. In esoteric Buddhist teachings, the unopened flower is thought to be like the heart of man – blossoming only when touched by the virtues of Buddha. In Egypt the lotus can be seen in a variety of art, hieroglyphics and as general decoration. One of the legends that can be found in this area is of a giant lotus rising from watery chaos and causing the sun to rise on the first day of creation. In Christianity, the white lotus is thought to be a representation of the purity of the Virgin Mary. Aside from having a great religious and mythological significance, the lotus can also be consumed. The rhizomes can be roasted, curried, pickled or dried and used as a thickening powder. The seeds can be candied, roasted or eaten raw; the flower and stalks, on the other hand, can be prepared in any way that a regular leafy vegetable might be eaten.
Lotus flowers are full of deep meaning, beautiful and long lasting, and thus, make great gifts. Many people like to give them as wedding presents as they are one of the few flowers that bloom and produce fruit simultaneously. This is thought to be a good omen for a newly married couple, as it not only represents a continuation of the growth of their relationship, but also a growth in their family. These flowers can be given alone, or as part of bouquet. If you are giving them as a gift to someone who lives in a warm climate, has access to a garden pond and simply loves to grow things, you might also want to consider giving them either a pre-grown plant, or even a few fresh seeds.