Herbs & Plants

Shapla: (Water Lily)

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Ninféia (Nymphaea caerulea)
Image by Vivi RS/RJ via Flickr

Botanical Name: Nymphaea Lotus
Family: Nymphaeaceae (Water Lily Family)
Part Used : Flowers, Roots, Leaves, Stem
Habitat : Through out warmer parts of india,Bangladesh Burma and Sreelanka in tanks, ponds and ditches. Widespread all over South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia as well as further north in Zimbabwe, Zambia.

Other scientific names :Nymphaea pubescens Willd, Nymphaea lotus Blanco,Castalia pubescens Blume,Nymphaea nouchali

Common Names: Labas (Tag),Lauas (Tag.),Pulau (Tag.)Talailo (Bis.),Tunas (Bis., Tag.),Lotus lily (Engl), Water lily (Eng), Blue Water Lily, Blouwaterlelie, Kaaimanblom, Frog’s Pulpit, Paddapreekstoel, Blou Plomb, iZubu(Z) and Blue Lotus in Egypt

Synonyms: Nymphaea capensis Thunb., N. caerulea Sav., N. calliantha Conard,
N. mildbraedi Gilg., N. spectabilis Gilg., N. nelsonii Burtt Davy)

This lovely aquatic plant with sky-blue flowers is South Africa’s most commonly grown indigenous water lily.

It is a clump forming perennial with thick, black, spongy, tuberous rhizomes anchored in the pond mud by spreading roots. The water lily does not have true stems, the leaves are on long petioles (leaf stalks) that arise directly from the rhizome. The leaves are large and flat, rounded or oval in shape with notched margins, up to 40 cm in diameter, and cleft almost to the centre where the petiole is attached. They are relatively short lived and are replaced regularly throughout the growing season. They start out as a soft shiny green at the centre of the plant. As they age, the petiole lengthens, pushing the leaf towards the outer perimeter making room for the new growth, and they develop light brown or purple splashes which eventually cover the leaf, leaving only the veins green. They then start to die, turning yellow then brown and eventually disappearing under the water. One plant can spread over an area of about 1 m..

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The leaves show many interesting adaptations to their watery environment. The margins are slightly rolled inwards toward the uppermost side (involute) which helps keep the blades afloat. The underside of the leaf, which is continually wet, has a strong attraction to the water and this holds the leaf flat against the water. The veins act like a structural support for the leaves. The upper leaf surface is coated with a smooth waxy cuticle, which gives it the appearance of being leathery and shiny. This water-repellent waxy layer is of vital importance to the plant, not only to help prevent the leaf from sinking, but also to prevent the tiny stomatal pores, through which it breathes, from becoming clogged with dust. When water splashes onto the leaf surface, it forms rounded droplets that roll across the surface cleaning up the dust as they go. Clean dust free leaves are also better able to photosynthesise effectively.

The easiest method of propagation is division. Plants may be left in place for two years, but pot grown plants are best lifted, divided and planted in fresh soil each year for good results. The plants are best lifted and divided just before new growth commences in the spring (August). Pull or cut the fleshy roots (rhizomes) apart and replant immediately in fresh soil mixture. Each new plant should have at least one bud at the tip of the rhizome.

The blue water lily may be grown from seed, but this requires patience, for the plants take 3 to 4 years to flower. It is difficult to collect the seed, because the seed pods burst without much warning and the seeds disperse and sink quite soon. A common practice is to tie a muslin bag around the ripening pod. In this way after it bursts, the seeds cannot float away. The seed can be sown in spring and during summer (September-January). Finely sieved clean loam soil without any organic matter or fertiliser is best. Seed should be sown thinly, covered lightly with soil and then plunged into shallow water, no deeper than 2.5 cm, and placed in a sunny position. Germination should take 3-4 weeks The seedlings will look like fine grass at first, developing true leaves later. When the first two or three floating leaves appear the seedling should be pricked out and planted into individual containers and immersed back in the water. They may be submerged into deeper water and larger containers as they grow and lengthen.

Chemical constituents and characteristics:
The leaves and rhizomes contain an abundant amount of tannic acid; an alkaloid resembling nupharin; glucose; metaarabic acid; fat and ash.
The leaves contain myricitin, saccharose and phytosterin.
The juice is bitter and astringent has some narcotic properties.
Flowers are astringent and cardiotonic.

Uses : The rhizomes is cooling, sweet, bitter and tonic and is useful in diarrhoea, dysentery, dipsia and general debility. The flowers are astringent and cardiotonic. The seeds are sweet, cooling, constipating, aphrodisiac, stomachic and restorative. It has found uses both as a culinary delight and starchy food staple as well as being used internally as a treatment for gastrointestinal disorders and jaundice. Leaf is used in cutaneous, subcutaneous parasitic infection, eye treatments, and pregnancy. Seeds are used in sauces, condiments, spices and flavorings.

Decoction of the juice used for gonorrhea.
Plant juice rubbed on the forehead and temples to induce sleep.
Powdered roots used as demulcent for piles; also for dysentery and dyspepsia.

Nymphaea caerulea (Blue Lotus) was held in very high esteem by the ancient Egyptians. Nymphaea Caerulea was commonly worshipped as a visionary plant and used symbolically to depict the origin of life. The Egyptians believed that the world was originally covered by water and darkness. A Blue Lotus sprang up from the water and opened its petals to reveal a young god, a Divine Child. Light streamed from the Divine Child to banish universal darkness. This child god was the Creator, the Sun God, the source of all life. When the Pharaoh known as King Tut was entombed, his body was covered in Blue Lotus flowers.

Nymphaea caerulea was smoked or drank after being soaked in water or wine, it acted as an intoxicant, aphrodisiac; permitted use was used only among the elect class in Egypt. It was revered as sacred and a taboo for the common people. It is now available through us via wholesale or through our list of reputable dealers.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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