Nymphaea nouchali (also called Star lotus, Red and blue water lily, Blue star water lily, or by its synonym Nymphaea stellata) is a water lily of genus Nymphaea. It is the national flower of Sri Lanka and of Bangladesh.
Distribution and habitat
This aquatic plant is native from the Indian Subcontinent to Australia region. It has been long valued as a garden flower in Thailand and Myanmar to decorate ponds and gardens. In its natural state N. nouchali is found in static or slow-flowing aquatic habitats of little to moderate depth.
Nymphaea nouchali is a day blooming nonviviparous plant with submerged roots and stems. Part of the leaves are submerged, while others rise slightly above the surface. The leaves are round and green on top; they usually have a darker underside. The floating leaves have undulating edges that give them a crenellate appearance. Their size is about 20–23 cm and their spread is 0.9 to 1.8 m
This water lily has a beautiful flower which is usually violet blue in color with reddish edges. Some varieties have white, purple, mauve or fuchsia-colored flowers. The flower has 4-5 sepals and 13-15 petals that have an angular appearance making the flower look star-shaped from above. The cup-like calyx has a diameter of 11–14 cm.
In Sri Lanka this plant usually grows in buffalo ponds and natural wetlands. Its beautiful aquatic flower has been mentioned in Sanskrit, Pali and Sinhala literary works since ancient times under the names "Kuvalaya", "Indhīwara", "Niluppala", "Nilothpala" and "Nilupul" as a symbol of virtue, discipline and purity. Buddhist lore in Sri Lanka claims that this flower was one of the 108 auspicious signs found on Prince Siddhartha's footprint. It is said that when Buddha died, lotus flowers blossomed everywhere he had walked in his lifetime.
N. nouchali is used as an ornamental plant because of its spectacular flowers. It is also popular as an aquarium plant under the name "Dwarf Lily" or "Dwarf Red Lily". Sometimes it is grown for its flowers, while other aquarists prefer to trim the lily pads, and just have the underwater foliage.
Nymphaea nouchali is considered a medicinal plant in Indian Ayurvedic medicine under the name Ambal; it was mainly used to treat indigestion. Recent experiments have confirmed that it has medicinal qualities as an antihepatotoxic and antidiabetic. Like all waterlilies or lotuses, its tubers and rhizomes can be used as food items; they are eaten usually boiled or roasted. In the case of N. nouchali, its tender leaves and flower peduncles are also valued as food.
- Nymphaea caerulea, the Egyptian blue lotus or sacred lotus
- Nymphaea lotus, the white lotus or Egyptian white water-lily
- List of freshwater aquarium plant species
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