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Valentine.gr  

May 2007

Did you know that the plant Nymphaea caerulea ( Egyptian Blue Water-lily) is a likely candidate (among several) for the lotus plant eaten by the mythical Lotophagi in Homer's Odyssey?

Egyptian Blue Water-lily ( Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea) 

Waterlily - Nymphaea spp.

Nymphaea is a genus of aquatic plants in the family Nymphaeaceae. The common name, shared with some other genera in the same family, is water-lily or waterlily. Nymphaea leaves have a radial notch from the circumference to the petiole (leaf stem) in the center. There are about 50 species in the genus, which has a cosmopolitan distribution. Many of the water-lilies familiar in water gardening are hybrids.

The genus is closely related to Nuphar, differing in the petals being much larger than the sepals, whereas in Nuphar, the petals are much smaller than the 4-6 yellow-coloured sepals. The fruit maturation also differs, with Nymphaea fruit sinking below the water level immediately after the flower closes, whereas Nuphar fruit are held above water level to maturity.

Water lilies, particularly nymphaeas, the true water lilies, are steeped in history and tradition. The name of the genus Nymphaea is a direct transliteration of a Greek word which Theophrastus (a disciple of Plato and Aristotle) used to describe these plants about 300 years before the common era, and refers to the practice of early Greeks in dedicating the water lily to the semi-divine water maidens, the nymphs. 

This is however by no means the earliest record that we have of the water lily. The ancient Egyptians revered the Nile water-lilies, or lotuses as they were also called. In Egypt, The Egyptian Blue Water-lily, N. caerulea, opens its flowers in the morning and then sinks beneath the water at dusk. The Egyptian White Water-lily, N. lotus, flowers at night and closes in the morning. Both Egyptian water-lilies, have been admired, painted, eaten, grown and revered for thousands of years. 

The goddess Isis is said to have pointed out that the rhizomes were edible, and its flowers, buds and leaves are often depicted on ancient monuments, in murals, on pottery and on furniture. Monarchs and priests of ancient Egypt were laid to rest with wreaths made from the petals of the blue lotus, laid in concentric semi-circles from the chin downwards. There is also evidence, in the form of a painting in a tomb dating back to 3000-2500 BCE, that nymphaeas were deliberately cultivated in square, evenly spaced beds fed by canals. The blooms were in great demand for religious festivals, offerings of the flowers being made to the dead or to the gods, as well as for gifts to visiting noblemen as a gesture of friendship and goodwill. Remains of both flowers have been found in the burial tomb of Ramesses II.

And later on, both Amenhotep IV and Ramses III (1225 BCE) are known to have had them growing purely for their ornamental value in their palace gardens. The reason for their veneration lies in the belief that the beautiful blooms of the water lily, rising pure and clean from the slimy mud, were comparable with the aspirations of mankind: purity and immortality.

The Egyptians associated the buds of Nymphaea caerulea with male sexuality and the open flowers with female sexuality.

The scent of the flower was considered healing, the flowers were added to wine to create a recreational hallucinogen, and the flower was also used to induce trance in shamans for the purpose of healing on a spiritual level, such as helping guide the souls of the dead (and in fact, this plant is generally associated with ritual mourning in Egyptian art, where it symbolized rebirth). 

Until recently, it was believed the importance of Nymphaea caerulea was purely symbolic. We now know, however, that the ancient Egyptians and other cultures worshipped the plant not only for its beauty but as an intoxicant. When Blue Lotus was soaked in hot water or wine (and perhaps even smoked) the flower produced a blissful state of dreamy euphoria.

No psychoactive chemicals have been found in the flower alone, but there is some indication that something is activated when the flower is soaked in wine for a few days. The effects have been described as euphoric and tranquilizing. These psychoactive effects make Nymphaea caerulea a likely candidate (among several) for the lotus plant eaten by the mythical Lotophagi in Homer's Odyssey

In modern times, the name lotus is used almost exclusively for Nelumbo nucifera, also called the sacred lotus or incorrectly the Egyptian lotus. Nelumbo nucifera is not a native of Egypt. It actually comes from south-east Asia where which are used in Asian cooking and it is sacred to Hinduism and Buddhismit. It is often found near temples and is regarded as sacred in China and Japan. In China water lilies are thought to have been grown for many years. It has also long been cultivated by the Japanese. Nelumbo nucifera was introduced to the Nile by the Romans, probably for food.

Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nymphaea
http://www.thelotusshop.com/lotus-botany/botany.htm

http://www.alchemy-works.com/nymphaea_caerulea.html

 

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Suriname cherry - Eugenia uniflora
Australian Finger Lime - Citrus australasica
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Java Apple - Syzygium samarangense
Screwpine - Pandanus utilis
Marimo - Aegagropila linnaei
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Rubber Tree - Hevea brasiliensis
Sugar cane - Saccharum officinarum
Sacha inchi - Plukenetia volubilis
Coffea - Coffee Tree - Coffea arabica
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Rose Cactus - Pereskia grandifolia
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Kurrajong - Brachychiton populneus
Rice-paper Plant -Tetrapanax papyrifer
Shell Ginger - Alpinia zerumbet
Harlequin Glorybower - Clerodendrum trichotomum
Coco de Mer - Lodoicea maldivica
Silver Tree - Leucadendron argenteum
Buffaloberry - Shepherdia argentea
Himalayan Honeysuckle - Leycesteria formosa
Raisin Tree - Hovenia dulcis
Borojo - Alibertia patinoi - Borojoa patinoi
Butterfly Pea - Clitoria ternatea
Honey Flower - Melianthus major
Ombu - Phytolacca dioica
Lion's Ear - Wild Dagga - Leonotis leonurus
Moringa - Miracle Tree - Moringa oleifera
Sea Daffodil - Pancratium maritimum
Spear Lily - Gymea - Doryanthes
Camphor tree - Cinnamomum camphora
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Four o'clock - Marvel of Peru - Mirabilis jalapa
Dead Manís Fingers - Decaisnea
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Shoapnuts Tree - Shoapberry - Sapindus
Acerola - Malpighia
Monkey Ladder - Sea Heart - Entada gigas
Cherimoya - Annona cherimola
Caper - Capparis spinosa
Lithops - Living Stones
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Parrot's Beak - Lotus berthelotii
Water Hyacinth - Eichhornia crassipes
Guaiac Tree - Guaiacum officinale - Lignum-vitae
Mickey Mouse bush - Ochna serrulata
Cow's Udder - Solanum mammosum
Miracle fruit - Synsepalum dulcificum
Akebia - Akebia quinata
Chilean Firebush - Embothrium coccineum
Caesalpinia - Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Welwitschia - Welwitschia mirabilis
Saguaro - Carnegiea gigantea
Schisandra - Schisandra chinensis
Monarda - Bee balm - Bergamot
Tamarind - Tamarindus indica
Neomarica - Walking Iris
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Paulownia - Paulownia tomentosa
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Blue Poppy - Meconopsis
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Stevia - Stevia rebaudiana
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Clematis
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Jade vine - Strongylodon macrobotrys
Sansevieria - Snake Plant
Trochetia
Yareta - Azorella compacta
African tulip tree - Spathodea campanulata
Angel's Trumpets - Brugmansia
Achiote - Annato - Bixa orellana
Sausage Tree - Kigelia pinnata
Castor Oil Plant - Ricinus communis
Firewheel Tree - Stenocarpus sinuatus
Bat Flower - Tacca
Snake gourd - Trichosanthes cucumerina
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Pickerel Weed - Pontederia
Argan - Argania spinosa
Astilbe - False Goats Beard
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Sweet Box - Sarcococca
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Foxtail Lily - Eremurus
Rue - Ruta graveolens
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Rose of Jericho - Anastatica hierochuntica
Gunnera
Waterlily - Nymphaea
Calico Flower - Aristolochia
Daylily - Hemerocallis
Contorted hazel - Corylus avellana Contorta
Torch Ginger - Etlingera elatior
Mistletoe - Viscum album
Devil´s claw - Harpagophytum procumbens
Teasel - Dipsacus
Pampas grass - Gynerium argenteum - Cortaderia Selloanna
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Coral Tree - Erythrina crista-galli
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Narcissus - Daffodil
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Honeysuckle - Lonicera
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Calendula - Marigold
Lupine - Lupinus
Canna - Indian Shot
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Oak - Quercus
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Chaenomeles - Flowering Quince
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Amaryllis - Hippeastrum
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Bay Laurel - Laurus nobilis
Gloriosa
Bamboo
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Artichoke - Cynara scolymus
Clivia - Clivia Miniata
Dipladenia - Dipladenia sanderii
Date palm - Phoenix dactylifera
Peach - Prunus persica
Almond - Prunus amygdalus
Willow - Salix
Pomegranate - Punica granatum
Protea cynaroides
Colchicum autumnale
Bird of Paradise - Strelitzia reginae
Cardon - Pachycereus pringlei
Wolffia arrhiza
Puya raimondii
Fuchsia
Asphodelus - Asphodel
Primula - Primerose
Dicentra spectabilis - Bleeding Heart
Edelweiss - Leontopodium alpinum
Helleborus Niger - Christmas Rose
Zantedeschia - Calla Lily
Fritillaria imperialis - Crown imperial
Aster
Heliconia
Common Sunflower - Helianthus annuus
Bee Orchid - Orphys apifera
Convalaria majalis - Lily of the Valley - Muguet
Syringa Vurgaris - Lilac
Viola
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Snowdrop - Galanthus
Poinsettia - Euphorbia pulcherrima
Dionaea muscipula
Banksia
Sea anemone
Amorrhophallus titanum
Rafflesia arnoldi

 

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