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. Like other species in the genus, the plant contains the psychoactive alkaloid apomorphine. It was known to the Mayan and Ancient Egyptian civilisations.

Distribution[edit]

Its original habitat may have been along the Nile and other parts of East Africa. It spread more widely in ancient times, including to 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.

Religion and art[edit]

Ancient Egyptian funerary stele showing a dead man, named Ba, seated in the center, sniffing a sacred lily. New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, c. 1550–1292 BC.

Along with the white lotus Nymphaea lotus, also native to Egypt, the plant and 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. N. caerulea was considered extremely significant in Egyptian mythology, regarded as a symbol of the sun, since the flowers are closed at night and open again in the morning. At Heliopolis, the origin of the world was taught to have been when the sun-god Ra emerged from a lotus flower growing in "primordial waters". At night he was believed to retreat into the flower again.[2] Due to its colour, 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]

There is evidence that the clinical effects of plants including N. caerulea that contain the psychoactive alkaloid apomorphine were known to both the Mayans and the Ancient Egyptians.[4]

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. ^ Rawson, Jessica, Chinese Ornament: The lotus and the dragon, pp. 200 (quoted)–202, 1984, British Museum Publications, ISBN 0-714-11431-6
  3. ^ Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003). The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. p. 133. ISBN 0-500-05120-8. 
  4. ^ Bertol, Elisabetta; Fineschi, Vittorio; Karch, Steven B.; Mari, Francesco; Riezzo, Irene (2004). "Nymphaea cults in ancient Egypt and the New World: a lesson in empirical pharmacology". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 97 (2): 84–85. PMID 1079300. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Nymphaea caerulea at Wikimedia Commons