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All About Bangladesh’s National Flower: The White Water Lily

Bangladesh, a country known for its lush landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history, is also home to a delicate beauty that floats serenely atop its myriad water bodies – the White Water Lily. As the national flower, this aquatic gem tells a tale of resilience, elegance, and an inherent connection to Bangladesh’s aquatic topography.

As you delve deeper into this article, you’ll uncover the stories, significance, and enchanting details of the White Water Lily, a silent yet profound emblem of Bangladeshi identity.

Description of The White Water Lily

Classified under the Nymphaeaceae family, the White Water Lily, or Nymphaea nouchali as it’s scientifically known, is a vision to behold. Its ethereal white petals, often ranging between twelve to fifteen in number, unfurl gracefully, revealing a golden-yellow core that invites various pollinators. The petals occasionally exhibit hints of soft blues and pinks, especially towards the base, adding a dash of color to its predominantly white demeanor.

Contrasting its delicate blossoms are the robust, round leaves or lily pads. Often seen floating on the water’s surface, these leaves are a deep shade of green, sometimes with purplish or reddish hints on their undersides. They not only serve as a visual backdrop for the blossoms but also offer shelter to many aquatic species.

White Water Lilies typically bloom from late spring to early autumn. One of the captivating characteristics of this flower is its fragrance. Soft and sweet, it’s most potent during the early hours of the day, making morning walks alongside Bangladeshi lakes, ponds, or rivers a truly immersive experience.

Bangladesh White Water Lily

Where Does The White Water Lily Grow?

Bangladesh’s topography is intricately woven with rivers, ponds, lakes, and wetlands, offering an ideal habitat for the White Water Lily. The plant thrives in shallow, still freshwater environments, particularly in areas with a subtropical climate that ensures warm temperatures but not extreme heat. It’s common to spot these floating jewels in the freshwater bodies of the Bengal Delta, dotting the landscape from Sylhet to Khulna.

While Nymphaea nouchali is closely identified with Bangladesh, its geographical range is more expansive. The flower is native to regions of South Asia and Southeast Asia, which means that beyond Bangladesh, it’s found in countries like India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Each region offers a slightly different environment, but the flower’s basic requirements remain consistent: calm freshwater bodies with ample sunlight and a relatively warm climate.

The White Water Lily in The Ecosystem

Beyond its visual allure, the White Water Lily plays a pivotal role in its ecosystem. Its broad floating leaves provide shade and temperature regulation for the water below, ensuring that aquatic life, such as small fish and tadpoles, have a cooler refuge during hot days. This helps maintain the biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems by creating a habitat where different species can thrive.

Furthermore, the flower serves as an essential source of food and habitat. Insects, especially bees and beetles, are attracted to its vibrant center, aiding in the plant’s pollination process. Even after pollination, the plant continues to support the ecosystem. Its seeds provide nourishment to various waterfowl, while its sturdy stems and leaves offer shelter to small aquatic creatures, protecting them from potential predators.

An often-overlooked contribution of the White Water Lily is its role in water purification. The plant helps reduce the amount of algae in water bodies by limiting the sunlight that penetrates the water surface, preventing the rapid growth of these microorganisms. By doing so, the White Water Lily helps maintain the ecological balance of its environment.

Bangladesh White Water Lily

Symbolism and Meaning: Why and When Did The White Water Lily Become the National Flower of Bangladesh?

The White Water Lily, with its ethereal beauty and resilience, has always held a special place in the heart of Bangladesh. Symbolizing purity, serenity, and life, the flower stands as an emblem of the nation’s spirit and its harmonious relationship with water. In a country crisscrossed by rivers, the water lily’s ability to thrive and bloom amidst the changing currents mirrors Bangladesh’s own history of resilience and determination in the face of challenges.

Historically, the water lily has been a part of Bengali folklore, art, and literature for centuries, with poets and artists drawing inspiration from its tranquil presence. Its cultural and ecological significance culminated in its official designation as the national flower of Bangladesh shortly after its independence in 1971.

Though there isn’t an exact date for this designation, it was soon after the nation’s birth that the flower became an emblem of hope, rebirth, and new beginnings for a country charting its own course.

Where is The White Water Lily Featured in Bangladesh?

Beyond the wetlands and ponds, the influence of the White Water Lily in Bangladesh extends into various facets of national identity. Notably, the flower is beautifully depicted on the country’s currency notes, showcasing its significance in the national psyche. On the taka bills, the water lily stands alongside other symbols of national pride, subtly reminding every Bangladeshi of their bond with nature.

Additionally, the water lily has a significant presence during the Bengali New Year or “Pohela Boishakh.” During this vibrant festival, the flower is used in decorations and is often integrated into artwork and alpona (traditional Bengali floor art). Young girls clad in traditional white and red sarees with water lily motifs participate in processions, embodying the nation’s deep-rooted cultural ties with the flower.

In literature, the water lily finds mention in many poems and stories, reflecting the beauty, challenges, and ever-evolving narrative of Bangladesh. Its serene presence in art, currency, festivals, and everyday life is a testament to the inextricable bond between the nation and this graceful flower.

Names of The White Water Lily

The White Water Lily is known by various names across different regions and cultures. Its scientific name is Nymphaea nouchali. Commonly, it’s referred to as the “White Water Lily” or “Star Lotus.”

In Bangladesh, it’s known as “Shapla.” Apart from this, it’s also known as “Blue Lotus” in some parts of the world due to the slight bluish tinge it can have. Its varied names across regions reflect its wide distribution and the diverse cultures that admire its beauty.

Bangladesh White Water Lily

Interesting Facts About The White Water Lily

  1. Medicinal Uses: The White Water Lily has been used in traditional medicine for its purported benefits. The flower, seeds, and tubers have been utilized for their astringent, diuretic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
  2. Cultural Significance: Apart from being the national flower of Bangladesh, the White Water Lily is also considered sacred in various cultures. It often symbolizes rebirth, purity, and enlightenment, especially in Buddhist traditions.
  3. Art and Literature: The ethereal beauty of the water lily has made it a favorite among artists and poets. Renowned painters like Claude Monet have immortalized the water lily in their artworks. In Bengali literature, it’s not uncommon to come across poetic verses and songs dedicated to the ‘Shapla’.
  4. Flowering Time: One fascinating aspect of the White Water Lily is that it’s a nocturnal flower. It blooms during the night and closes its petals as the sun rises, making night the best time to witness its full glory.

How to Grow The White Water Lily

Growing a White Water Lily requires certain conditions to mimic its natural habitat:

  • Water Conditions: As the name suggests, this is an aquatic plant. It thrives best in still or slow-moving waters like ponds, lakes, or slow streams.
  • Soil: Use loamy soil. Plant the tuber of the water lily about 4 to 6 inches deep in the soil, preferably in a container if you’re introducing it to a pond.
  • Sunlight: The White Water Lily requires full sunlight to bloom. Ensure it gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
  • Watering: Since it’s an aquatic plant, it’s essential to ensure that the water in which it’s planted remains clean. Replace or clean the water periodically to prevent algal growth.
  • Depth: While planting in a pond, ensure that the water is at least 12 to 48 inches deep. The deeper it is, the more protection the plant has from potential frost in colder climates.
  • Fertilization: Use a slow-release aquatic fertilizer during the growing season to ensure vibrant blooms.
  • Pruning: Regularly remove dead or yellowing leaves to encourage healthy growth and prevent decay.

Growing a White Water Lily can be a rewarding experience. Its luminous petals floating on water can turn any pond into a serene, picturesque scene.

Bangladesh White Water Lily

Other Beautiful Flowers Native To Bangladesh

Bangladesh is home to a rich variety of flora due to its tropical climate and varied ecosystems. Apart from the iconic White Water Lily, here are five other native and significant flowers of Bangladesh:

  • Kadam Flower (Neolamarckia cadamba): This tree produces ball-like flower clusters that are highly fragrant. The Kadam flower holds cultural importance, especially during the monsoon season, and has found its way into various Bengali songs and poems.
  • Marigold (Tagetes): Known as ‘Genda’ in Bangladesh, marigolds are vibrant flowers that come in shades of yellow and orange. They are extensively used in religious and cultural festivities.
  • Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis): Locally known as ‘Joba,’ this is a common flowering shrub in Bangladesh. The red hibiscus, in particular, is very popular and holds medicinal properties.
  • Tube Rose (Polianthes tuberosa): Called ‘Rajnigandha’ in Bengali, meaning ‘night-fragrant,’ this flower emits a strong, sweet scent, especially after dusk. It’s often used in perfumery and for garlands.
  • Jasmine (Jasminum): Known as ‘Beli’ in Bengali, jasmine flowers are small, white, and highly fragrant. They’re commonly used for religious purposes and in making floral garlands.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why was the White Water Lily chosen as the national flower of Bangladesh?

The White Water Lily, or ‘Shapla,’ represents purity, beauty, and the bond of nature and water, which is highly symbolic given the abundance of water bodies in Bangladesh.

Is the White Water Lily found only in Bangladesh?

No, while it is the national flower of Bangladesh, the White Water Lily is found in many parts of Asia and Africa.

Are there any other national symbols of Bangladesh related to flora and fauna?

Yes, the national tree of Bangladesh is the mango tree (Mangifera indica), and the national bird is the Oriental Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis), known locally as ‘Doyel’ or ‘Doel.’

Can the White Water Lily be grown in home gardens?

Absolutely! With the right aquatic conditions, sunlight, and care, the White Water Lily can be a beautiful addition to home ponds or water gardens.

Are there different colors of Water Lilies?

Yes, water lilies come in various colors, including pink, red, blue, and of course, white. The color often depends on the specific species and variety.

Other National Symbols of Bangladesh

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