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HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Nymphaea nouchali

Nymphaea nouchali

The blue lotus or star lotus, red water lily, dwarf aquarium lily, blue water lily, blue star water lily, manel flower (Nymphaea nouchali Burm. fil. 1768) is an aquatic herbaceous species belonging to the Nymphaeaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Spermatophyta Superdivision,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Magnoliidae,
Order Nymphaeales,
Family Nymphaeaceae,
Genus Nymphaea,
Species N. nouchali.
The terms are synonymous:
– Castalia acutiloba (DC.) Hand.-Mazz.;
– Castalia stellaris Salisb.;
– Castalia stellata (Willd.) Blume;
– Castalia versicolor (Sims) Tratt.;
– Leuconymphaea sansebariensis (Casp.) Kuntze;
– Leuconymphaea stellata (Willd.) Kuntze;
– Nymphaea acutifolia DC.;
– Nymphaea acutiloba DC.;
– Nymphaea ampla Kotschy;
– Nymphaea ampla Kotschy ex Casp.;
– Nymphaea bernierana Planch.;
– Nymphaea caerulea Andrews;
– Nymphaea caerulea Sav.;
– Nymphaea cahlara Donn;
– Nymphaea cyanea Roxb.;
– Nymphaea cyanea Roxb. ex G.Don;
– Nymphaea henkeliana Rehnelt;
– Nymphaea hookeriana Lehm.;
– Nymphaea malabarica Poir.;
– Nymphaea manipurensis Asharani & Biseshwori;
– Nymphaea manipurensis var. versicolor Asharani & Biseshwori;
– Nymphaea membranacea Wall.;
– Nymphaea membranacea Wall. ex Casp.;
– Nymphaea minima F.M.Bailey;
– Nymphaea nouchali var. cyanea (Roxb. ex G.Don) M.R.Almeida;
– Nymphaea nouchali var. versicolor R.Ansari & Jeeja;
– Nymphaea pandiflora Peter;
– Nymphaea punctata Edgew.;
– Nymphaea rhodantha Lehm.;
– Nymphaea richardiana F.Hoffm.;
– Nymphaea semisterilis Lehm.;
– Nymphaea stellata F.Hoffm.;
– Nymphaea stellata Harv.;
– Nymphaea stellata Oliv.;
– Nymphaea stellata Willd.;
– Nymphaea stellata var. albiflora F.Henkel et al.;
– Nymphaea stellata var. cyanea (Roxb. ex G.Don) Hook.fil. & Thomson;
– Nymphaea stellata var. parviflora Hook.fil. & Thomson;
– Nymphaea stellata var. versicolor (Sims) Hook.fil. & Thomson;
– Nymphaea sumatrana Miq.;
– Nymphaea tetragona var. acutiloba (DC.) F.Henkel et al.;
– Nymphaea versicolor Sims;
– Nymphaea voalefoka Lat.-Marl.;
– Nymphaea voalefoka Lat.-Marl. ex W.Watson.
Within this species the following varieties are recognised:
– Nymphaea manipurensis var. manipurensis;
– Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea (Savigny) Verdc.;
– Nymphaea nouchali var. mutandaensis Verdc.;
– Nymphaea nouchali var. nouchali Burm.f.;
– Nymphaea nouchali var. ovalifolia (Conard) Verdc.;
– Nymphaea nouchali var. petersiana (Klotzsch) Verdc.;
– Nymphaea nouchali var. versicolor (Sims) Guruge & Yakand.;
– Nymphaea nouchali var. zanzibariensis (Casp.) Verdc.

Etymology –
The term Nymphaea comes from the Latin “nymphae”, that is, nymphs, divinities who in Latin mythology lived in the woods, seas, rivers and lakes.
The specific epithet nouchali should derive from the name of a place in Bangladesh.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Nymphaea nouchali is a plant native to the southern and eastern areas of Asia; in detail it is found in the following countries: Afghanistan, Australia (Northern Territory and Queensland), Bangladesh, Cambodia, China (Anhui, Guangdong, Hainan, Hubei and Yunnan), Philippines, India (Andaman and Nicobar Islands), Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia , Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Its natural habitat in these areas is that of lakes, ponds and marshy areas, generally in calm waters and, in any case, in static or slow-flowing aquatic habitats of shallow to moderate depth, at altitudes up to 500 metres.

Description –
Nymphaea nouchali is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows in freshwater. It is a somewhat variable species which has an erect, unbranched ovoid rhizome rooted in the bottom sediment; it tends to go dormant in periods of drought.
The leaves are solitary, present at the end of a robust petiole crossed by channels in which air is present to ensure flotation and gaseous exchanges between leaves and roots.
The floating leaves are peltate (with the petiole inserted almost in the center of the blade), orbicular of 8-25 cm in diameter with entire or crenate margin (with teeth with rounded apex), smooth on the top, water-repellent and green in colour, slightly purple on the bottom ; the submerged leaves are pale green above, pink below.
The flowers, which are fragrant, have a diameter of 5-15 cm; they emerge slightly from the surface of the water, on a peduncle also equipped with channels in which air is present; they have 4 lanceolate sepals, slightly veined, green externally, of the same color as the petals internally, 3-6 cm long, 10-25 petals from oblong to lanceolate, white tinged with blue, purple or purple-red (with varieties appearing in the colors white, blue, purple, violet, pink and cream/yellowish white), and 35-40 stamens 1-4 cm long of yellow color tinged with blue at the apex; the flowers open in the morning and close in the late afternoon, generally for four consecutive days.
At the end of flowering, the peduncle dives, bringing the forming fruit to the bottom, where it completes ripening.
The fruits are globose in shape, 2-4 cm in diameter, containing ellipsoid or globose seeds, green, about 1 mm long, with spongy aril. The seeds initially float due to the presence of air in the aril (fleshy envelope that completely or partially envelops the seed), which favors their dispersion, until this falls apart, becoming soaked in water, causing them to settle to the bottom.

Cultivation –
Nymphaea nouchali is a herbaceous plant with a perennial, tuberous rootstock that is sometimes harvested in the wild for its edible and medicinal properties. It is also sometimes grown as a food crop and is commonly grown as an ornamental.
It is a plant of tropical and subtropical regions that prefers a sunny position in a shallow pond and with flowers that open during the day and are sweetly scented.
It is a plant long appreciated as a garden flower in Thailand and Myanmar to decorate ponds and gardens and is the national flower of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
In general it is a plant that has been much appreciated for a long time and has spread widely outside its areas of origin, such as in Africa, for its ornamental characteristics; cultivable in tropical and subtropical climate zones, where it is in flower for most of the year, and marginally in warm-temperate ones, elsewhere the plants can be kept from autumn to spring in a protected environment, at a temperature of 18-20° C.
For its cultivation it requires full sun, preferably slightly acidic or neutral water and a substrate rich in organic substance which can consist of a layer of garden soil, a layer of manure and a layer of gravel for cover.
It is often used in aquariums for its ornamental submerged leaves.
The first flowering takes place in the third or fourth year after sowing. At an amateur level, reproduction is carried out almost exclusively by division of the rhizome, with at least one bud present.
Reproduction is by seed, in the spring-summer period; this must be covered by a thin layer of soil and a few centimeters of water, in full sun; germination occurs in 3-4 weeks, after the first leaves have appeared, transplant into individual containers and immerse them in water.
It can also be reproduced by division, i.e. the removal of a portion of the rhizome with a sprouting eye; in this case you need to place the rhizome in a small immersed pot and pot as the plant grows until the roots fill a 10cm pot, at which point it will be large enough to be planted.
Please remember that its leaves can be attacked by an aquatic fungus, Doassansiopsis nymphaea.

Customs and Traditions –
Nymphaea nouchali is a plant known by various common names; among these are: blue lotus, blue star water lily, blue waterlily, indian blue water lily, star lotus (English); ninféia-azul, nymféia stelata (Portuguese); blaue seerose (German).
In Sanskrit it is called utpala.
Some taxonomic confusion has occurred in the past; the name Nymphaea nouchali was incorrectly applied to Nymphaea pubescens.
As mentioned, it is the national flower of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where it is known as nil mānel or nil mahanel (නිල් මානෙල්).
In Sri Lanka, this plant usually grows in buffalo ponds and natural wetlands. Its beautiful aquatic flower has been mentioned since ancient times in Sanskrit, Pali and Sinhala literary works under the names kuvalaya, indhīwara, niluppala, nilothpala and nilupul as a symbol of virtue, discipline and purity. Buddhist tradition in Sri Lanka states that this flower was one of the 108 auspicious signs found on Prince Siddhartha’s footprint. It is said that when Buddha died, lotuses bloomed wherever he walked during his life.
Claire Waight Keller included the plant to represent Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Meghan Markle’s wedding veil, which included distinctive flora from each Commonwealth country.
N. nouchali may have been one of the plants eaten by the Lotus Eaters in Homer’s Odyssey.
It is grown as an ornamental plant for its spectacular flowers and is most commonly used for traditional and cultural festivals in Sri Lanka.
N. nouchali is considered a medicinal plant in Indian Ayurvedic medicine under the name ambal.
Like all water lilies, its pear-shaped, brown cotton-covered, potato-sized rhizomes, leaves and most of the plant are poisonous and contain an alkaloid called nufarine. Unlike the European species, this can (and should) be neutralized in the rhizomes of this species by boiling. In India these were consumed as food in case of famine or as medicine. In Vietnam it was eaten roasted. In Sri Lanka it was formerly consumed as a kind of medicine and its price was too high to serve as a normal meal, but in the 1940s some villagers began to cultivate water lilies in the rice fields left fallow during the monsoon season (Yala season ) and the price collapsed. It is eaten boiled and curry. The tubers of this species are completely edible, during the dry season they consist almost entirely of starch, and were consumed in West Africa, usually boiled or roasted.
The seeds are also sometimes eaten fried or ground and added to flour.
The dried plant is collected from ponds, tanks and swamps during the dry season and used in India as fodder for animals.
All parts of the plant, except the seeds, also contain the alkaloid nympheine. This alkaloid is toxic to frogs and produces tetanus-like symptoms.
Among other uses, the rhizomes are reported to be a source of tannins.

Preparation Method –
Nymphaea nouchali is a plant known not only for ornamental purposes but also for its food and medicinal uses.
The seed is eaten boiled or ground into flour.
The flour is used mixed with barley and wheat flour for the production of bread.
The flowers are used as vegetables.
Leaves and flower stalks are eaten as vegetables.
The rhizomes are eaten raw, boiled or roasted; they are a rich source of starch and can also be dried and then ground into a flour, which can be used to make porridge.
The root is considered poisonous unless cooked.
Medicinally this plant has a long history of use in traditional medicine and modern research has demonstrated the presence of numerous medically active compounds in the plant.
The alkaloid nympheine is found in all parts of the plant except the seed, while coclaurine has been found in the leaves and stem.
The plant contains numerous flavonoids such as kaempferol, quercetins and myricetins, which are found mainly in the flowers.
The plant also contains a glycoside, nymphalin, which has a similar action to digitalis on the heart.
The alcoholic extracts of the rhizome, containing the alkaloid nympheine, have a mild sedative and spasmolytic action. They do not significantly depress the heart; at high doses, however, they have a paralyzing effect on the spinal cord.
The rhizomes are considered astringent, emollient, diuretic, emollient and tonic.
A decoction is administered in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, stomach pain, colic and dyspepsia.
An infusion of the fresh rhizomes is used to treat blennorrhagia and urinary tract infections.
The powdered rhizome is used as an emollient in the treatment of hemorrhoids.
The slightly bitter juice of the leaves and petioles is used in the treatment of gonorrhea.
The juice has mildly narcotic properties and is rubbed on the forehead and temples to induce sleep.
The juice of the leaves, or the macerated leaves, is an ingredient in a lotion applied to the skin against fever.
The flowers are taken as a cardiotonic due to their astringent properties.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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