Back in the summer, I visited Kew Gardens for the first time. One of the -very many- fascinating things I learned there was that the lotus flower, although in appearance quite similar to the water lily (which is a much more common sight here in England!), is in fact closely related to the plane tree, which grows to up to 50 metres high!
An aquatic perennial with large showy flowers, the sacred lotus has long been considered a close relative of water lilies. However, lotus flowers differ markedly from those of water lilies, most notably through the obconical (ice-cream cone-shaped) receptacle in the centre, into which numerous free carpels are sunken. Recent molecular research has shown that the closest living relatives of the sacred lotus are the plane trees (Platanus spp., Platanaceae) and members of the protea family (Proteaceae). Their isolated phylogenetic position indicates that both Nelumboand Platanus may be living fossils (the only survivors of an ancient and formerly much more diverse group).
The lotus flower is held as a sacred symbol by yogis, as well as by Buddhists and Hindus. Its rhizomes grow from the mud at the bottom of a lake and rise up above the surface of the water, so that its stalks may be as much as 1 or 2 metres tall. In yoga, each chakra is symbolized by a lotus flower, of different colours and with different numbers of petals for each chakra. For Sahasrara, the crown chakra, the lotus is said to have thousand petals, although this may also be interpreted as meaning an infinite number (Swami Satyananda Saraswati, ‘Kundalini Tantra’ (1984), p 189).
‘If you really set your heart on your higher goal in life, your commitment can lift you out of the merry-go-round of the first three Cakras’~ Swami Radhananda (2010) ‘Living the Practice’