Thinking Citizen Blog — Flowers V — The Lotus

Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day

Today’s Topic: Flowers V — the Lotus — aka “water lily” — the botany, the symbolism, Monet

Four weeks ago, the tulip. Three weeks ago, the crocus and the lily. Two weeks ago, the iris and the fleur-de-lis. Last week, the rose. The premise of this series is that environmental awareness begins with an appreciation for the beauty and fragility of the natural world. According to Buddhist legend, wherever the Buddha walked, lotus flowers would spring up. The lotus is the national flower of both India and Vietnam. Monet spent 20 years painting them again and again in the ever changing light. Today a few notes on the botany, the symbolism, and Monet. Plus a footnote on the edible rhizomes. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

AMAZING BOTANY — the underwater roots, the surface leaves, the flowers above

1. The roots of lotus are planted in the soil of the pond or river bottom, while the leaves float on the water’s surface or are held well above it. The flowers are usually found on thick stems rising several centimeters above the leaves.”

2. “The leaf stalks (petioles) can be up to 200 cm (6 ft 7 in) long, allowing the plant to grow in water to that depth, and a horizontal spread of 1 m (3 ft 3 in).”

3. “The leaves may be as large as 80 cm (31 in) in diameter, while the showy flowers can be up to 30 cm (12 in) in diameter.”


1. Above, the Hindu goddess Lakshmi stands on a “lotus throne.”

2. “I love the lotus because growing from mud it is unstained” — Zhou Dunyi (1017–1073)

3. “One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water.” (Bhagavad-Gita)


1. In 1883, Monet (1840–1926) began renting a house and gardens in Giverny. By 1890 he was rich enough to buy the property. “In 1893 he began a vast landscaping project which included building a lily pond…”

2. “In 1899 he began painting the water lilies, first in vertical views with a Japanese bridge as a central feature, and later in the series of large-scale paintings that was to occupy him continuously for the next 20 years of his life.”

3. “This scenery, with its alternating light and mirror-like reflections, became an integral part of his work.”

NB: The above painting is from the Princeton Museum. Other versions are in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Gallery (London), the National Gallery (DC), and the Quai d’Orsay.

FOOTNOTE: lotus rhizomes are edible — any fans?

1. Eaten as a vegetable in China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka.

2. “Sold whole or in cut pieces, fresh, frozen, or canned.”

3. “They are fried or cooked mostly in soups, soaked in syrup or picked in vinegar (with sugar, chili, garlic.”

NB: “Lotus rhizomes have a a crunchy texture with sweet- tangy flavors and are a classic dish at many banquets where they are deep-fried, stir-fried, or stuffed with meats or preserved fruits. Salads with prawns, sesame oil or coriander leaves are also popular.”

Lotus — Voyage to Vietnam

Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to climate change or the environment. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to climate change that the rest of us may have missed. Your favorite chart or table perhaps…

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.