The Indian lotus flower is the national flower of India, and has many associations with the Hindu gods, religion and literature. Its seeds, leaves, flowers and roots are all edible, and are frequently used in a variety of Asian foods and medicines. Commonly mistaken for a water lily, the lotus flower is a separate species. So what exactly is the Indian lotus flower?
The scientific name for the Indian lotus is Nelumbo nucifera. It is a water flower, and is perennial in tropical climates, flowering every year.
How it grows
The roots of the lotus grow in the soil of ponds and river bottoms, while the leaves and flowers float on top of the water's surface.
The leaves of the lotus are large, green and paddle-shaped and can grow over 50 cm (20 inches) high. The flowers, always pink, have multiple layers of long, blade-shaped petals and can grow up to 20 cm (8 inches) across. The plant itself can grow up to 150 cm (60 inches) high and can spread up to 2.7 m (9 feet) horizontally.
The dried seed pods are very distinctive: They are large, grey-brown, roughly rounded pods with multiple holes for seeds, and are frequently used in dried flower arrangements.
The lotus flower represents purity of mind and body in both Hindi and Buddhist religions, and is frequently seen in the art of Buddhism, Hinduism and other Japanese and Chinese traditions.