Nymphaea nouchali, often known by its synonym Nymphaea stellata, or by common names blue lotus, star lotus, red and blue water lily, blue star water lily is a water lily of genus Nymphaea. It is native to southern and eastern parts of Asia, and is the national flower of Sri Lanka and of Bangladesh. This species is sometimes considered to include the blue Egyptian lotus Nymphaea caerulea. In the past there has been taxonomic confusion with the name Nymphaea nouchali incorrectly applied to Nymphaea pubescens.
Distribution and habitat
This aquatic plant is native in a broad region from Afghanistan, the Indian Subcontinent, to Taiwan, southeast Asia, and Australia. 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, hence its name red and blue water lily. 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.
It was also the National flower of the former defunct Hyderabad State. N. nouchali is the national flower of Bangladesh. A pale blue-flowered N. nouchali is the national flower of Sri Lanka, where it is known as nil mānel or nil mahanel (නිල් මානෙල්).
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.
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
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