Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea

Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea, or previously Nymphaea caerulea,[2] known primarily as blue lotus (or blue Egyptian lotus), but also blue water lily (or blue Egyptian water lily), and sacred blue lily,[3] is a water lily in the genus Nymphaea, as a variety of Nymphaea nouchali. Like other species in the genus, the plant contains the psychoactive alkaloid aporphine (not to be confused with apomorphine). It was known to the Ancient Egyptian civilization.

Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea
Nymphaea caerulea (Nymphaeaceae).jpg
A Nymphaea caerulea flower.
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Order: Nymphaeales
Family: Nymphaeaceae
Genus: Nymphaea
N. n. var. caerulea
Trinomial name
Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea
(Savigny) Verdc., 1989
    • Castalia caerulea (Savigny) Tratt., 1822
    • Castalia capensis (Thunb.) J.Schust., 1907
    • Castalia scutifolia Salisb., 1805
    • Leuconymphaea berneriana (Planch.) Kuntze, 1891
    • Leuconymphaea caerulea (Savigny) Kuntze, 1891
    • Leuconymphaea emirnensis (Planch.) Kuntze, 1891
    • Nymphaea bernieriana Planch., 1853
    • Nymphaea caerulea Savigny, 1798
    • Nymphaea calliantha Conard, 1904
    • Nymphaea capensis Thunb., 1800
    • Nymphaea capensis var. alba K.C.Landon, 1984
    • Nymphaea coerulea Andrews, 1801
    • Nymphaea cyclophylla R.E.Fr., 1914
    • Nymphaea edgeworthii Lehm., 1852
    • Nymphaea emirnensis Planch., 1853
    • Nymphaea engleri Gilg, 1908
    • Nymphaea madagascariensis DC., 1821
    • Nymphaea magnifica Gilg, 1908
    • Nymphaea mildbraedii Gilg, 1908
    • Nymphaea muschleriana Gilg, 1908
    • Nymphaea nubica Lehm., 1853
    • Nymphaea radiata Bercht. & Opiz, 1825
    • Nymphaea scutifolia (Salisb.) DC., 1821
    • Nymphaea spectabilis Gilg, 1908
    • Nymphaea sphaerantha Peter, 1928

In 2012 there was a phylogenetic study where Nymphaea caerulea was more related to Nymphaea spectabilis than to Nymphaea nouchali. In the same study, the closest relative to N. nouchali was Nymphaea gracilis. Such evolutionary tree was a consensus of ITS2 and matk, so it is highly accurate.[4] Since then, there has not been any scientific paper that has included both N. caerulea and N. nouchali in the same study. Therefore, from the latest scientific evidence Nymphaea caerulea should not be considered as a variety of Nymphaea nouchali. That is why when the water lily (Nymphaea) genome was published for the first time in the journal Nature in 2020, Nymphaea caerulea was not cited as Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea, but as Nymphaea caerulea.[5]


Its original habitat may have been along the Nile and other parts of East Africa. It spread more widely in ancient times, including to the Indian subcontinent and Thailand.

Chemical CompositionEdit

Aporphine is said to be main psychoactive compound present. Other compounds include apomorphine and nuciferine.[6]


The leaves are broadly rounded, 25–40 cm (10–16 in) across, with a notch at the leaf stem. The flowers are 10–15 cm (4–6 in) in diameter.

Reports in the literature by persons unfamiliar with its actual growth and blooming cycle have suggested that the flowers open in the morning, rising to the surface of the water, then close and sink at dusk.[citation needed] In fact, the flower buds rise to the surface over a period of two to three days, and when ready, open around 9:30 am and close about 3:00 pm. The flowers and buds do not rise above the water in the morning, nor do they submerge at night. The flowers have pale bluish-white to sky-blue or mauve petals, smoothly changing to a pale yellow in the centre of the flower.[citation needed]

Religion and artEdit

Ancient Egyptian funerary stele showing a dead man named Ba, seated at the center, sniffing a sacred lily, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550–1292 BC

Along with the white lotus, Nymphaea lotus, also native to Egypt, the plant and flower are very frequently depicted in Ancient Egyptian art. They have been depicted in numerous stone carvings and paintings, including the walls of the famous temple of Karnak, and are frequently depicted in connection with "party scenes", dancing or in significant spiritual or magical rites such as the rite of passage into the afterlife. King Tut's mummy was covered with the flower.[citation needed] N. caerulea was considered extremely significant in Egyptian mythology, regarded as a symbol of the sun, since the flowers are closed at night and open again in the morning. At Heliopolis, the origin of the world was taught to have been when the sun god Ra emerged from a lotus flower growing in "primordial waters". At night, he was believed to retreat into the flower again.[7] Due to its colour, it was identified, in some beliefs, as having been the original container, in a similar manner to an egg, of Atum, and in similar beliefs Ra, both solar deities. As such, its properties form the origin of the "lotus variant" of the Ogdoad cosmogeny. It was the symbol of the Egyptian deity Nefertem.[8]

For its use in Buddhist art, see utpala.

Properties and usesEdit

Some evidence indicates the medicinal effects of plants including N. caerulea that contain the psychoactive alkaloid aporphine were known to both the Maya and the Ancient Egyptians.[9]

The mildly sedating effects of N. caerulea makes it a likely candidate (among several) for the lotus plant eaten by the mythical Lotophagi in Homer's Odyssey.

This lotus has been used to produce perfumes since ancient times; it is also used in aromatherapy.

Legal statusEdit


N. caerulea is illegal in Latvia since November 2009. It is a schedule 1 drug. Possession of quantities up to 1 gram are fined up to 280 euros, for second offences within a year period criminal charges are applied. Possession of larger quantities can be punished by up to 15 years in prison.[10]


N. caerulea was banned in Poland in March 2009. Possession and distribution lead to a criminal charge.[11]


N. caerulea is illegal in Russia since April 2009 along with spice and related products, Salvia divinorum, Argyreia nervosa, and others.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea (Savigny) Verdc". Plants of the World Online. Kew Science. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  2. ^ "Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2008-12-04.
  3. ^ "Nymphaea caerulea". EPPO Global Database. European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO). Retrieved 2020-10-17.
  4. ^ Biswal DK, Debnath M, Kumar S, Tandon P (2012). "Phylogenetic reconstruction in the Order Nymphaeales: ITS2 secondary structure analysis and in silico testing of maturase k (matK) as a potential marker for DNA bar coding". BMC Bioinformatics. 13 (Suppl 17): S26. doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-S17-S26. PMC 3521246. PMID 23282079.
  5. ^ Zhang L, Chen F, Zhang X, Zhen L, Zhao Y, Lohaus R, Chang X, Dong W, Ho SY, Liu X, Song A, Chen J, Hu J, Liu Y, Qin Y, Wang K, Dong S, Liu Y, Zhang S, Yu X, Wu Q, Wang L, Yan X, Jiao Y, Kong H, Zhou X, Yu C, Chen Y, Li F, Wang J, Chen W, Chen X, Jia Q, Zhang C, Jiang Y, Zhang W, Liu G, Fu J, Chen F, Ma H, Van de Per Y, Tang H (2020). "The water lily genome and the early evolution of flowering plants". Nature. 577 (7788): 79–84. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1852-5. PMC 7015852. PMID 31853069.
  6. ^ Poklis JL, Mulder HA, Halquist MS, Wolf CE, Poklis A, Peace MR (2017). "The Blue Lotus Flower (Nymphea caerulea) Resin Used in a New Type of Electronic Cigarette, the Re-Buildable Dripping Atomizer". Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 49 (3): 175–181. doi:10.1080/02791072.2017.1290304. PMC 5638439. PMID 28266899.
  7. ^ Rawson, Jessica, Chinese Ornament: The lotus and the dragon, pp. 200 (quoted)–202, 1984, British Museum Publications, ISBN 0-714-11431-6
  8. ^ Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003). The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. p. 133. ISBN 0-500-05120-8.
  9. ^ Bertol, Elisabetta; Fineschi, Vittorio; Karch, Steven B.; Mari, Francesco; Riezzo, Irene (2004). "Nymphaea cults in ancient Egypt and the New World: a lesson in empirical pharmacology". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 97 (2): 84–85. doi:10.1177/014107680409700214. PMC 1079300. PMID 14749409.
  10. ^ "Par Krimināllikuma spēkā stāšanās un piemērošanas kārtību" (in Latvian). likumi.lv. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  11. ^ (in Polish) Dz.U. 2009 nr 63 poz. 520, Internetowy System Aktów Prawnych.
  12. ^ "Постановление Правительства Российской Федерации от 31 декабря 2009 г. № 1186". 2009. Archived from the original on 2012-03-10. Retrieved 2016-05-05.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea at Wikimedia Commons

Erowid Vault about Blue Lotus