Kew Millennium Seed Bank, UK
Seed from the Kew Millennium Seed Bank collection at Wakehurst, outside London in the UK.
Nelumbo nucifera (Nelumbonaceae) – sacred lotus; native from Asia to Australia – fruit consisting of the enlarged floral axis with numerous chambers each containing a single-seeded nutlet. As the long flexible fruit stalks sway in the wind, the nutlets are flung out and thrown into the water where they immediately sink to the bottom. Enclosed in the extremely hard pericarp of the nutlet, lotus seeds can retain their viability for more than 1,000 years. With its waterlily-like flowers and aquatic lifestyle the sacred lotus superficially resembles waterlilies (Nymphaeaceae) although its closest living relatives have been shown to be the plane trees (Platanaceae) and members of the Proteaceae family. The sacred lotus has a deep religious meaning for Hindus and Bhuddists in India, Tibet and China where it has been cultivated since the 12th century BC.