Nymphaea caerulea

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Not to be confused with Blue star water lily.
Nymphaea caerulea
Nymphaea Caerula.jpg
A Nymphaea caerulea flower in Mauritius
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
Order: Nymphaeales
Family: Nymphaeaceae
Genus: Nymphaea
Species: N. caerulea
Binomial name
Nymphaea caerulea
Sav.[1]

Nymphaea caerulea, known primarily as blue lotus (or blue Egyptian lotus), but also blue water lily (or blue Egyptian water lily), and sacred blue lily (or sacred narcotic lily of the nile), is a water-lily in the genus Nymphaea.

Distribution[edit]

Its original habitat may have been along the Nile and other locations in East Africa. It spread to other locations, however, already in ancient times, like the Indian Subcontinent and Thailand.

Description[edit]

The leaves are broadly rounded, 25–40 cm across, with a notch at the leaf stem. The flowers are 10–15 cm in diameter.

Reports in the literature by persons unfamiliar with its actual growth and blooming cycle have suggested that the flowers open in the morning, rising to the surface of the water, then close and sink at dusk.[citation needed] In fact, the flower buds rise to the surface over a period of two to three days, and when ready, open at approximately 9–9:30 am and close about 3 pm. The flowers and buds do not rise above the water in the morning, nor do they submerge at night. The flowers have pale bluish-white to sky-blue or mauve petals, smoothly changing to a pale yellow in the centre of the flower.

Floral symbolism[edit]

Ancient Egyptian funerary stele showing a dead man, named Ba, seated in the center, sniffing a sacred lily.

The flower is very frequently depicted in Egyptian art. It has been depicted in numerous stone carvings and paintings, including the walls of the famous temple of Karnak. It is frequently depicted in connection with "party scenes", dancing or in significant spiritual / magical rites such as the rite of passage into the afterlife. [2] Nymphaea caerulea was considered extremely significant in Egyptian mythology, since it was said to rise and fall with the sun. Consequently, due to its colourings, it was identified, in some beliefs, as having been the original container, in a similar manner to an egg, of Atum, and in similar beliefs Ra, both solar deities. As such, its properties form the origin of the lotus variant of the Ogdoad cosmogeny. It was the symbol of the Egyptian deity Nefertem.[3]

Properties and uses[edit]

In modern culture, blue lotus flowers are used to make various concoctions including blue lotus tea, wine and martinis. Recipes for such drinks involve steeping or soaking the petals, about 10–20 grams for up to three weeks. Blue lotus 'tea' is prepared by boiling the entire flowers for 10–20 minutes.

Recent studies have shown N. caerulea to have mild psycho-active properties.[medical citation needed] It may have been used as a sacrament in ancient Egypt,[citation needed]. Eating N. caerulea can act as a mild sedative.[medical citation needed] A common misconception is confusion of the lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) with the water lilies (Nymphaea, in particular Nymphaea caerulea, sometimes called the "blue lotus"); they are practically unrelated; far from being in the same family, Nymphaea and Nelumbo are members of different orders (Proteales and Nymphaeales respectively). However, both N. caerulea and N. nucifera contain the alkaloids nuciferine and aporphine.[4][unreliable source?] The mildly sedating effects of N. caerulea makes it a likely candidate (among several) for the lotus plant eaten by the mythical Lotophagi in Homer's Odyssey.

This lotus has been used to produce perfumes since ancient times; it is also used in aromatherapy.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Nymphaea caerulea information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. Retrieved 2008-12-04. 
  2. ^ http://www.aphrodisiacs-info.com/nymphaea-caerulea.html
  3. ^ Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003). The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. p. 133. ISBN 0-500-05120-8. 
  4. ^ http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/lotus.htm

External links[edit]

Media related to Nymphaea caerulea at Wikimedia Commons