Lotus flowers are most commonly associated with the east and eastern cultures due to the strong association of the pink lotus flower with Buddhism and spiritual enlightenment. However, the American lotus grows naturally in the western hemisphere and has a rich culture of symbolism and tradition to complement its natural beauty. 

The Symbolic Meaning of the American Lotus – The Essentials

Lotus flowers symbolize cleansing, purity, rebirth, and renewal. The yellow American lotus represents openness, hospitality, mental clarity, wisdom, creativity, knowledge, confidence, joy, and devotion to God. In the language of flowers, a lotus can mean eloquence, estranged love, or recantation.


About American Lotus Flowers

About American Lotus Flowers

Taxonomy

Nelumbo lutea (botanical name: Nelumbo lutea Willd.) is a species of flowering, aquatic plant that belongs to the Nelumbo genus and the Nelumbonaceae plant family. Common names for Nelumbo lutea include American lotus, voleé, yellow lotus, and water-chinquapin. 

Along with several other plants of the Nelumbonaceae plant family, the Nelumbo lutea is commonly referred to as a lotus. However, these plants should not be confused with those of the unrelated Lotus genus that belongs to the Fabaceae (bean or pea) plant family. Despite its name, flowers of the Lotus genus do not resemble the spiky, aquatic flowers associated with “lotus” used as a common name. 

Botanical Characteristics

The American lotus is a rhizomatic hydrogeophyte that anchors its roots in the muddy bottoms of lakes, ponds, swamps, and frequently flooded areas. From roughly four-foot-long stalks, these plants produce large, floating leaves that can grow to be about a foot to a foot and a half in diameter. The floating flowers are starry and cup-shaped, with 22 to 25 petals that range from white to cream to pale yellow in color. Flowers bloom in early spring and open up to about seven to 11 inches in diameter. 

History and Origins of the American Lotus

The American lotus is native to a wide range of the eastern portion of the North American continent and a small section of South America. Its native habitat ranges from southeastern Canada throughout the eastern half of the United States into Mexico, the Greater Antilles, and Columbia.

American Lotus Etymology

The American lotus’s common name describes the region of its native origin and the shape of its flowers. In contrast, its common name, yellow lotus, describes the color with which its flowers most commonly bloom.

The word lotus is actually a Latin adaptation of the ancient Greek word “lotos” which has been used to refer to several different types of flowers. 

Its scientific name comes from a New Latin word that has been formed from the Sinhalese word නෙලුම්බ (nelumba), which refers to aquatic plants of this genus and type. “Lutea” is Latin for yellow, and the specific name describes the color of American lotus flowers. 

Uses and Benefits of American Lotus Flowers

Uses and Benefits of American Lotus Flowers

Ornamental

American lotus flowers are used as ornamental flowers for planting in ponds, lakes, and man-made water features. They produce large, showy flowers and giant floating leaves that are beautiful to admire when the plant is in bloom and when it is not. 

Culinary

Several parts of the American lotus are edible (including the rhizomes, seeds, fruits, leaves, and stalks), and they were a common food source for many Native American tribes. In fact, the packing and carrying of American lotus plants as a food source by the Native Americans is thought to be one reason why the plant’s known native range is spread so far across the North American and South American continents. 

Native Insect Population Support

The American lotus shelters and supports the development of Ostrinia penitalis (the American lotus borer), a type of moth native throughout the region of the American lotus. 


The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of American Lotus Flowers

The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of American Lotus Flowers

Traditional Lotus Symbolism and Meaning

Traditionally, all kinds of lotus flowers are associated with purity, cleansing, rebirth, and renewal. This is largely attributed to their ability to grow up from the dirty, mucky mud and produce beautiful, pristine flowers that float on the surface. 

The Meaning and Symbolism of American Lotus in the Language of Flowers

In the Victorian language of flowers, several texts assign meaning to not just the lotus flower but the flower, the entire plant, and its leaves. In the language of flowers, these parts hold the following symbolic meanings:

  • Lotus – Eloquence
  • Lotus Flower – Estranged love
  • Lotus Leaf – Recantation

American Lotus Colors and Their Symbolic Meanings

American Lotus Colors and Their Symbolic Meanings

The American lotus only blossoms in shades of pale yellow and white.

  • Yellow lotus flowers symbolize openness, hospitality, wisdom, mental clarity, creativity, knowledge, confidence, joy, and devotion to God. 
  • White lotus flowers symbolize enlightenment, spiritual purity, spiritual perfection, awakening, and the pacification of one’s nature.

In Disney’s animated feature The Princess and the Frog, Princess Tiana’s iconic gown features an American lotus flower embellishment on the waist. It is fashioned with skirted layers to resemble the lovely, local blooms. 

American Lotus Festivals

American Lotus Festivals

Although its wild numbers are dwindling due to habitat loss, the American lotus still grows naturally throughout the eastern part of the continent. This means you can enjoy them on your own by spending a peaceful day in nature on the water. 

There are also festivals held around the American lotus’s seasonal blooming. Two of these include:

American Lotus Fine Art and Literature

The American lotus, with its unique beauty and aquatic backdrop, is a popular subject for artists. The flowers were famously captured in American artist Charles Courtney Curran’s 1888 painting Lotus Lilies. Another American lotus graces the painting Mink Pond, painted by artist Winslow Homer in 1891. 

American Lotus is the title of a collection of poems written by Kevin Casey and published in 2018. 

Official Flower Designations

The American lotus is Michigan’s official state symbol of clean water. 

Suitable Gifting Occasions for American Lotus Flowers

Suitable Gifting Occasions for American Lotus Flowers

Lotus is one of July’s official birth flowers, making lotus flowers an excellent gift for July birthdays. With their many inspiring symbolic meanings, they are also a wonderful gift for someone who has shown great knowledge or spiritual growth. 


American Lotus Flowers FAQs:

What do American lotus flowers symbolize?

Lotus flowers symbolize cleansing, purity, rebirth, and renewal. With its yellow color, the American lotus represents openness, hospitality, mental clarity, wisdom, creativity, knowledge, confidence, joy, and devotion to God. In the language of flowers, a lotus can represent eloquence, estranged love, or recantation. 

Do American lotus flowers symbolize love?

American lotus flowers do not symbolize love. Rather, they symbolize purity, cleansing, renewal, and rebirth. 

Do American lotus flowers come back every year?

Yes, American lotus flowers are perennials, and they bloom every year. 

How long do American lotus flowers last?

These flowers usually blossom in the spring or summer, and the blooms last for a few weeks. 

Are American lotus flowers toxic?

American lotus flowers are not toxic to humans, dogs, or cats.


The Final Word

Although they come from the west, American lotus flowers have the same spiritual symbolism as eastern lotus flowers. As great symbols of purification and renewal, spiritual enlightenment, knowledge, and joy, they’re the perfect gift for anyone who is on a spiritual path. They’re also a joy to grow in water and where onlookers can enjoy their buoyant beauty.


Editorial Director | Full Bio | + posts

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

Author

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

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