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Nymphaea caerulea

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Nymphaea caerulea, also known as the Blue Egyptian water lily or sacred blue lily, is a water-lily in the genus Nymphaea.

Distribution

Its original habitat may have been along the Nile and other locations in East Africa. It spread to other locations, however, already in ancient times, like the Indian Subcontinent and Thailand.

It has historically been known as the blue lotus and sacred lotus, particularly in discussing its revered status among the Ancient Egyptians, Nubians, Abyssinians, and any number of historic African civilizations of the ancient world. Since the Indian sacred lotus, Nelumbo nucifera is sometimes called "blue lotus" in a poetical way, both plants could be confused.

Description

The leaves are broadly rounded, twenty-five to forty centimetres across, with a notch at the leaf stem. The flowers are ten to centimetres in diameter. Reports in the literature by persons unfamiliar with its actual growth and blooming cycle have suggested that the flowers open in the morning, rising to the surface of the water, then close and sink at dusk. In fact, the flower buds rise to the surface over a period of two to three days, and when ready, open at approximately 9:30am and close about 3pm. The flowers and buds do not rise above the water in the morning, nor do they submerge at night. The flowers have pale bluish-white to sky-blue or mauve petals, smoothly changing to a pale yellow in the centre of the flower.

It was considered extremely significant in Egyptian mythology, since it was said to rise and fall with the sun. Consequently, due to its colourings, it was identified, in some beliefs, as having been the original container, in a similar manner to an egg, of Atum, and in similar beliefs Ra, both solar deities. As such, its properties form the origin of the lotus variant of the Ogdoad cosmogeny. It was the symbol of the Egyptian deity Nefertem.[1]

Properties and uses

This lotus has been used to produce perfumes since ancient times; it is also used in aromatherapy.

Recent studies have shown Nymphaea caerulea to have mild psychoactive properties. It may have been used as a sacrament in ancient Egypt. Eating Blue Lotus can act as a mild sedative. Nymphaea caerulea is distantly related to, and possesses similar activity as Nelumbo nucifera, the Sacred Lotus. Both Nymphaea caerulea and Nelumbo nucifera contain the alkaloids nuciferine and aporphine.[2]

The mildly sedating effects of Nymphaea caerulea makes it a likely candidate (among several) for the lotus plant eaten by the mythical Lotophagi in Homer's Odyssey.

Some sources site it as an antispasmodic similar to copal resin.

In modern culture, blue lotus flowers are used to make various concoctions including blue lotus tea, wine and martinis. Recipes for such drinks involve steeping or soaking the petals for up to three weeks. Blue lotus tea is prepared by boiling the entire flowers for ten to twenty minutes.

References

  1. Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003). The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. p. 133. ISBN 0500051208. 
  2. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/lotus.htm
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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Nymphaea caerulea. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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