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Know Your Roots: The Lotus

First appearing in India and East-Asia, the Lotus flower has been intertwined with eastern culture and religion for thousands of years. It’s a sacred symbol of purity and rebirth in Buddhism and Hinduism. The aquatic perennial, not to be mistaken for a waterlily, is also the national flower of both India and Vietnam.

 

Like most plants, the Lotus flower was originally grown as a source of food and also used medicinally. The Indians would make tea from the leaves and pedals, and Asians would eat the seeds and rhizomes. The Lotus was cultivated from special water gardens and provided beauty and a meal to those farming the crop. It also provided them with something else; mystery. The farmers were mystified by the Lotus’s nightly routine. Every night the flower would submerge underneath the murky waters and breach the surface with the next day’s rising sun. The Lotus would emerge just as beautiful as the day before, its petals clean and unfazed by a night in muddy water. It was this daily “rebirth” that made the flower so sacred throughout eastern culture and religion.

A beautiful flower born and reborn from the mud each day, it’s not hard to see why the Lotus was associated with purity, divinity and the Gods. In Buddhism it’s said that the Buddha himself (Siddhartha Gautama) first appeared on a floating Lotus and that the flower grew wherever he stepped. Hindus associate the divine flower with many of their Gods, such as Vishnu and Lakshmi, and the Lotus is frequently depicted alongside them in paintings and statues.

It’s not just the Lotus’s daily “rebirth” that associates the flower with divinity. The Lotus can actually live for over a thousand years; an unnatural longevity that draws parallels with the immortality of a God. The seeds are even still viable after a thousand years, which was proven in the 90’s when a Lotus bloomed from a 1300 year old seed. As if living for a millennium wasn’t cool enough, researchers from Australia’s University of Adelaide discovered something else remarkable. They found that the Lotus has the ability to regulate its temperature within a very narrow range, much like humans or other warm-blooded animals. They suspect that the flower maintains a warmer temperature to attract cold-blooded pollinators.

Planting the Lotus flower is quite easy if you already have a water source, and if not you can create your own water garden. The water should be at least one foot deep and no more than 8 feet. If you plant them in too shallow of water they won’t be able to perform their nightly “rebirth” ritual. Plant them deeper than 8 feet and they aren’t able to reach the surface. Lotus love the mud so make sure your soil is nutrient-rich and made up of sand, silt and clay. Three months after planting you will have beautiful flowers ready to be harvested. After 4-8 months you can eat the seeds, just make sure they have turned black. After 6-9 months the rhizomes will be mature enough to consume. However, if you are like me, I won’t be harvesting the Lotus at all, I’ll be admiring its beauty.


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