Perennial aquatic herbs, long rhizomatous, rhizomes creeping, branched, forming swollen terminal storage tubers late in growing season; plant with air canals. Leaves heterophyllous (i.e. the leaf primordia arise in threes: one giving rise to a scale-leaf on the underside of the rhizome, which at first envelopes the terminal bud, while the second develops into an upper scale leaf which enwraps the petiole base of the large laminate leaf); leaves arising directly from rhizome, alternate, floating or emersed; petiole long; leaf blade peltate, orbiculate, margins entire; laticifers present. Inflorescences axillary, solitary flowers. Flowers bisexual, solitary and raised above the water surface, hypogynous, regular, peduncle long. Tepals numerous, distinct, outermost reduced, inner ones larger and petaloid. Stamens 200–400; filaments slender; anthers dehiscing by longitudinal slits. Carpels 12–40, free, embedded in a spongy receptacle. Ovary superior, 1-loculed. Placentation apical to marginal (ventral). Fruit nut-like, indehiscent.

The family is famous for the Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera.

Seeds and division of rhizome. Nelumbo nucifera is famous for the longevity of its seeds, up to 1300 years under favourable conditions of storage.

The seeds are edible, also the rootstock (as lotus root) and lower leaf stalks after removal of outer layer. Seed heads are used for decoration.

Readily recognised by their peltate leaves that are held above the water surface like parasols; the main venation is dichotomous. The flowers are similar to those of water lilies but have separate spherical carpels embedded in a large spongy receptacle.

1 genus of 2 species, 1 from North America and 1 from tropical and subtropical Asia extending to Australia.

Previously included in the family Nymphaeaceae.

Created by: Val Stajsic

Updated by: Val Stajsic, March 2018

kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Proteanae
order      Proteales
Higher taxa
Subordinate taxa
genus        Nelumbo Adans.