Lotus flowers grow inside muddy swamps and then emerge to the surface. The lotus family consists of two species: Nelumbo lutea and Nelumba nicifera. In traditional Asian cultures, the lotus flowers represent honor, good luck, long life and good health. These flowers are cultivated for their showy and fragrant flowers, lush green pads, fleshy rhizomes and broad, perforated and rounded seed pods.
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American Lotus (Nelumbo Lutea)
The American lotus is a perennial plant that can be confused with a water lily. However, unlike the water lily, the American lotus leaves are circular and do not have a cut. The round leaves are blue-green in color. If the stem is rigid enough, the American lotus can stand above the water up to 3½ feet. The delicate flowers are white to yellow in color and have more than 20 petals each. The seed structure, or center of the lotus, is cone-shaped and has openings where the seeds develop. These flowers are marketed commercially as yellow lotus or water chinquapin.
Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo Nucifera)
The Sacred Kotus is honored as sacred in East India because of its ability to grow from the bottom of muddiest of lakes and ponds to bloom above the surface. The flowers are white or pink in color and can reach a diameter of 13 inches. The leaves of the plant are very difficult to wet, which gives the plant the ability to remain clean. In many parts of Asia, all parts of the plant are used: the roots are boiled and added to soups or eaten raw; the large leaves are used to wrap food in; the stamen is dried and made into an herbal tree; and the seeds are eaten raw as a snack. The plant is also known as Indian Lotus and Bean of India.
Angel Wings (Nelumbium Nucifera)
The leaves of the Angel Wings variety are round, large, parasol-like and waxy green in color. These leaves have a diameter of 18 to 24 inches. The petals of the flowers have pointed edges that curl and point towards the seed pod. The flowers are 8 to 10 inches in diameter, are white in color, and give off an appealing fragrance. Because this plant can grow in shallow waters, it can grow in a small and shallow water garden. The flowers bloom best from July to September; the plant can reach a height of 4 to 6 feet.
Many lotus varieties are cultivated through hybrid methods. Some of the most common lotus hybrids are Nelumbo Alba Grandiflora, Nelumbo Baby Doll, Nelumbo Chawan Basu, Nelumbo Momo Botan, Nelumbo Red Scarf, Nelumbo Sweetheart and Nelumbo cultivar ‘Shirokunshi’ Tulip Lotus.