Nymphaea lotus, Egyptian white water-lily (also called tiger lotus or white lotus), is an aquatic flowering plant in the Nymphaceae (water-lily family), native to Egypt, central and west Africa, and Madagascar, which is frequently used as an aquarium plant or in water gardens. It is neither a true lily (in the genus Liliaceae) nor a lotus (which generally refers to plants in the lotus family, Nelumbaceae, although there is also a genus Lotus included in the legume family, Fabaceae). This species has a white flower that opens at night, which is the source of most night-blooming white water-lily hybrids and cultivars in commerce today.
N. lotus grows from tubers that can persist for several months in dormant state during dry seasons. Leaves are round, 20–50 cm (8–20 inches) wide, dentate, with a notch at the petiole, and may spread 1.5–3 m (5–10 feet) from the roots. Petioles (leaf stems) and peduncles (flower stems) are generally pubescent (hairy). Flowers, which last 4 days and have a slight fragrance, are 15–25 cm across, and are generally held 15–30 cm above the water. Flowers have 4 sepals and 19–20 white petals, with numerous yellow anthers and stamens. N. lotus is occasionally viviparous, producing new plantlets from tubers that emerge from the flowers.
N. lotus has escaped from cultivation and is naturalized in the U.S., in Louisiana and Florida, but is not reported as a particularly aggressive invader.
- Everett, T.H. 1981. “Nymphaea.” The New York Botanical Garden Illustrated Encyclopedia of Horticulture 7: 2351–2357.
- FNA. 2011. Nymphaea. Flora of North America vol. 3. Retrieved 21 December 2011 from http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=122531.
- Slocum, P.D. 2005. Waterlilies and Lotuses: Species, Cultivars, and New Hybrids. Portland, OR: Timber Press. 260 p.
A perennial, aquatic herb with stout rhizome and stolon-like branches. Leaves are orbicular, spinose-dentate, with a deep basal sinus, prominently veined on the lower surface, and borne on long petioles that arise directly from the rhizome. Flowers are solitary, bisexual, with white veined sepals, white petals with purplish tint beneath, broad, white stamen filaments, and a concave stigma with 20–35 rays. Fruit is a dry berry.
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Distribution in Egypt
Nile and Mediterranean regions.
Romania, Egypt, Tropical Africa, Asia.
Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Nymphaea lotus
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
It grows in various parts of East Africa and Southeast Asia. Nymphaea lotus f. thermalis is a variety endemic to the thermal water of the Peţa River in the Bihor County, Transylvania, Romania, in Europe.
It was introduced into western cultivation in 1802 by Loddiges Nursery. Eduard Ortgies crossed Nymphaea lotus (N. dentata) with Nymphaea pubescens (N. rubra) to produce the first Nymphaea hybrid ever, illustrated in Flore des serres 8 t. 775, 776 under the name Nymphaea ortgiesiano-rubra. It is a popular ornamental aquatic plant in Venezuela.
This species of water lily has lily pads which float on the water, and blossoms which rise above the water.
It is a perennial, grows to 45 cm in height. The color of the flower is white and sometimes tinged with pink.
It is found in ponds, and prefers clear, warm, still and slightly acidic waters. It can be found in association with other aquatic plant species such as Utricularia stellaris
As an aquarium plant
The tiger-like variegations appear under intense illumination.
As a symbol
In some part of Africa the rhizomes and tubers are eaten for the starch they contain either boiled, roasted or ground to a flour after drying. The young fruits are sometimes consumed as a salad. The seeds are turned into a meal.
The white lotus in Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians cultivated the white lotus in ponds and marshes.
This flower often appears in ancient Egyptian decorations. They believed that the lotus flower gave them strength and power; remains of the flower have been found in the burial tomb of Ramesses II. Egyptian tomb paintings from around 1500 BC provide some of the earliest physical evidence of ornamental horticulture and landscape design; they depict lotus ponds surrounded by symmetrical rows of acacias and palms. In Egyptian mythology Horus was occasionally shown in art as a naked boy with a finger in his mouth sitting on a lotus with his mother. The lotus was one of the two earliest Egyptian capitals motifs, the topmost members of a column. At that time, the motifs of importance are those based on the lotus and papyrus plants respectively, and these, with the palm tree capital, were the chief types employed by the Egyptians, until under the Ptolemies in the 3rd to 1st centuries BC, various other river plants were also employed, and the conventional lotus capital went through various modifications. Women often wore amulets during childbirth, which depicted Heqet as a frog, sitting in a lotus.
The number 1,000 in ancient Egyptian numerals is represented by the symbol of the white lotus. The related hieroglyph is :
The ancient Egyptians also extracted perfume from this flower. They also used the white lotus in funerary garlands, temple offerings and female adornment.
Though the plant contains a quinolizidine alkaloid, nupharin, and related chemicals, either described according to sources as poisonous, intoxicating or without effects, it seems to be consumed since Antiquity. The effects of the alkaloids would be those of a psychedelic aphrodisiac, though these effects are more those encountered in Nymphaea caerulea, the blue Egyptian water lily.
The chloroform, ethyl acetate and n-butanol extracts of the leaf shows the presence of phenolic compounds (flavonoids, coumarins and tannins), sterols and alkaloids.
Other compounds include myricitrin, myricetin 3-(6''-p-coumaroylglucoside), myricetin-3'-O-(6"-p-coumaroyl)glucoside and two epimeric macrocyclic derivatives, nympholide A and B, myricetin-3-O-rhamnoside and penta-O-galloyl-beta-D-glucose.
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