The sacred lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, is a rhizomatous aquatic perennial. Revered in
both Buddhism and Hinduism and celebrated as the national flower of India and Vietnam, it is native to the rivers and ponds of Asia and northern Australia.
The plant’s life cycle is steeped in symbolism, as stalks and leaves ascend from muddy soil and still waters to form a large, beautiful, albeit brief, blossom that opens as wide as 12 inches across.
The Garden’s collection of Nelumbo nucifera includes 'Empress,' 'Alba Plena,' and 'Improved Egyptian Pink' in the Japanese Garden. The plants are planted in a large enclosed bed along the muddy banks in the southeast corner of the lake.
Their growth spans the seasons, as winter’s withered brown leaves make way for spring’s quick growth, and summer’s short-lived flowers, followed by their signature seed pods. Individual flowers remain effective for about a week.
All buds don’t open simultaneously, so the overall peak season of bloom of the collection lasts for about two weeks.
Look for the lotuses expansive canopy of blue-green leaves, up to 2 to 3 feet in diameter, that may lie flat upon the water, or rise on stalks more than 5 feet above the water line. Their leaves are coated with a waxy substance that causes water droplets to bead up on the surface.