The lotus flower can be found throughout most of Southern and Southeastern Asia and it has deep ties to the different cultures of the people living there. It is sacred to both Buddhists and Hinduists and it symbolizes prosperity and purity of the body, mind and spirit. It grows in shallow, murky waters and according to some traditions, the opaquer and dirtier the water, the more beautiful the flower will be, when it eventually emerges. It has the remarkable ability to regulate its temperature within a narrow range, similar to warm-blooded animals. Scientist believe the reason for this is biochemical. Whenever the temperature drops, the flower oxidizes carbohydrates, just as animals do when they are shivering. This produces heat and attracts coldblooded insect, which it needs for its pollination. Animals have a very complex nervous system, which allows them to detect such changes in temperature, but how the lotus manages this is still unknown. Lotus flowers can live for over a thousand years and have the ability to revive themselves after a period of hibernation. Their seeds are very durable and in 1994 scientists were able to grow flowers from seeds which were dated back 1300 years.
Another interesting feature is its leaves’ ability to clean themselves, known as the Lotus effect. The unique structure of their surface, made up of scores of tiny bumps, makes them extremely hydrophobic. Because water tension tries to keep water molecules tightly together, it forces any droplets into spheres, which are unable to squeeze in the empty spaces. An additional waxy layer prevents them from sticking and so they simply slide off. On their way they pick up any dirt particles, which get absorbed by the inside the droplets, leaving the leaves clean.
Every morning the lotus flower emerges from the water and closes and sinks again in the evening. For this reason, it is known as the flower of the dawn and in Ancient Egypt it was a symbol of the Sun God and was even believed to have given birth to the sun.