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Native Flowers of Sri Lanka

Manel Sri Lanka

Nymphaea pubescens

Sinhala: Manel
Tamil: Kamalam, Alli Tamarei

There are three types of Authentic Water Lilies in Sri Lanka. In Sinhala they are referred to as Olu (white) the Nil Manel (magenta with yellow in the middle) and the Nelum (pink and white colors).

In February 1986 Nil Manel or blue water lily (Nymphaea stellata, though it has been recently renamed as Nymphaea nouchali) was chosen as the National flower. Nil Manel is found all the part of Sri Lanka and grows in the shallow water.

The manel is most popular among the local variety for its color and because it blooms from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. - almost the whole day.

It is with the first rays of the sun that the closed bud of the Manel opens and shows the world the beautiful pink blush that touches its petals. Blooming in shades of pink, blue and white on magenta with yellow in the middle, and also this plant has its roots deep in muddy waters.

One of several flowering plants which show striking adaptations to life in water, this flower is highly valued in aquatic horticulture in Sri Lanka. It has several local varieties which differ in size and color.

The flower blooms on a long stalk and floats on the surface. Each is 7-20 cm in diameter, has four sepals and numerous petals which vary in size and color. The petals are usually pale whitish violet or less commonly light blue and occasionally pinkish purple.

The botanical name of the flower is Nymphaea stellata Wild. The first part of the name has been derived from the Greek word "nymphaia" which means water lily and the second part from the Latin word "stellatus" meaning star. This is because in a lake having an abundance of this plant, the leaves and flowers give the appearance of a star studded sky.

We find the Apsaravas in Sigiriya frescoes holding these flowers in their hands. Seeds and the tubes are used as a vegetable by villagers while leaves stem and flowers are used in herbal medicine.

The plant grows in streams, tanks and ponds throughout Sri Lanka’s low country and flowers almost all year round.


Olu Sri Lanka

Nymphaea lotus

Sinhala: Olu
Tamil: Ambal

Olu Start blooming at 10 p.m. and close at 11 am

Olu flowers are amazing and have strong symbolic ties to many Sri Lankan religions. Grow in colors of blue, pink, white and yellow. The different colors are said to have different meanings. For instance white lotus flowers are said to represent a state of spiritual perfection and total mental purification while the red lotus signifies the original nature and purity of heart. It is known as the lotus of love, compassion, passion and all the other qualities of the heart. The blue lotus is said to signify wisdom and symbolize victory of the spirit over the senses. The pink lotus is called the supreme lotus and is generally reserved for the highest deity. In fact it is associated with the Buddha himself. Next time you pick a nelumbo lotus or offer it at the temple or kovil, remember how special this flower.

The lotus flower starts as a small flower down at the bottom of a pond in the mud and muck. It slowly grows up towards the waters surface continually moving towards the light. Once it come to the surface of the water the lotus flower begins to blossom and turn into a beautiful flower. The plant is also found as an ornamental plant in almost Sri Lanka.

Within Hinduism and Buddhism the lotus flower has become a symbol for awakening to the spiritual reality of life. The meaning varies slightly between the two religions of course but essentially both religious traditions place importance on the lotus flower.

Water lily is used in different Ayurvedic medicine preparations too. Lotus is a wholly edible species and is cultivated widely for its crisp rhizome and seeds, though the flowers and leaves are also eaten in some parts. Petals of the lotus flowers are used as garnish while the stamens are dried and used as a fragrant herbal tea. Rhizomes are used in soups or stir-fried and eaten. Lotus roots are said to be rich in dietary fibers, Vitamin C, copper and phosphorus but low in saturated fat. Seeds are sometimes boiled and made into a paste or eaten like pop-corn.

The plant also possesses medicinal properties. Due to its astringent qualities, lotus has been widely used in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery and piles. Many traditional texts also report its use for skin conditions, notable ringworm and leprosy. The flowers are commended as cardio tonic, liver, urinary and veneral disorders. The seeds are highly valued in conception, blood disorders and as cooling medicine. The plant has the ability to regulate the temperature of its flowers to within a normal range like humans and other warm-blooded animals.


Nelum Sri Lanka

Nelumbium nucifera

Sinhala: Nelum
Tamil: Tamarai

From ancient times the Nelum has been a divine symbol in Sri Lankan traditions as a symbol of purity. Found growing wild in Sri Lankan village tanks, boys with enterprise in their blood, wade into the waters to pluck buckets full of lotus flowers which they take to temple and sell to devotees. According to legend, Gautama Buddha was born with the ability to walk and everywhere he stepped, lotus flowers bloomed. In Buddhist symbolism the lotus again represents purity of the body, speech, and mind as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire.

Hindus revere it with the gods Vishnu, Brahma, and the goddesses Lakshmi and Sarasvati. Often used as an example of divine beauty, Vishnu is often described as the "Lotus-Eyed One". Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise. Particularly Brahma and Lakshmi, the divinities of potency and wealth, have the lotus symbol associated with them. In Hindu iconography, deities often are depicted with lotus flowers as their seats.

A flower of worship used by Buddhists and Hindus, the lotus is found on ancient temple paintings and its flower petals motifs are sculptured on moonstones. Lotus leaves are used as plates in rural areas for serving food. Lotus Seeds are strung together to make rosaries, while lotus leaf stalks are used to make wicks for temple lamps.

The main use of the plant however comes from flowers, which are used for ornamental and religious purposes.
The flowers, seeds, young leaves, and "roots" are all edible. In Asia, the petals are used sometimes for garnish, while the large leaves are used as a wrap for food.

 







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