The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Nelumbo nucifera
Nelumbo nucifera
(sacred lotus)

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Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn.

Common name: sacred lotus

Synonyms and Other Names: Asian lotus, Indian lotus

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: According to Les 2018:

Habit: Plants are obligate aquatic floating and emergent rooted perennials.

Roots: Rhizomes

Leaves: Leaves float on the surface of the water or are held up to 2 m (6 feet) above the water by their petioles. Leaf blades are circular peltate (stem attached to the center of the leaf without a sinus or cleft), 0.2 - 1 m (0.75-2.5 ft) wide, waxy (hydrophobic), green, hairless, with smooth margins, centers depress towards the middle with veins radiating from center. Petioles (leaf stems) are light green, terete, hairless, smooth or slightly prickly, hollow chambers to keep the stems erect and convey oxygen to the root system.

Flowers/Fruits: Flowers, held up 2 m (6 ft) above the water by peduncles, are 10-20 cm (4-8 in) wide, contain about 15 pink tepals (petals and sepals indistinguishable), a golden yellow receptacle, and a dense ring of golden stamens. The receptacle is in the center of the flower, is cone shaped, and has 15-35 short styles that look like small bumps. Each flower is replaced by a seedpod 7-10 cm (3-4 in) wide and 2 cm (0.75 in) deep. Seedpods become dark brown at maturity, bending down to release seeds, and individual seeds are exposed in small chambers.

Size: 1-2 m (3-6 ft) tall (Les 2018)

Native Range: Eastern Asia (China and Thailand) (Les 2018)

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Nelumbo nucifera are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL190119835Coosa-Tallapoosa; Lower Coosa; Middle Coosa; Middle Tombigbee-Lubbub; Mobile-Tensaw
AR198819881Ouachita Headwaters
CT190719071Outlet Connecticut River
FL196120176Aucilla; Everglades; Kissimmee; Oklawaha; Peace; Tampa Bay
HI201720182Kauai; Oahu
IL201220122Upper Sangamon; Vermilion
LA197819982Boeuf; Boeuf-Tensas
MA192820223Ashuelot River-Connecticut River; Charles; Outlet Connecticut River
MS197519751BigBlack - Homochitto
MO199719971Little River Ditches
NH202120221Merrimack River
NJ187620153Cohansey-Maurice; Crosswicks-Neshaminy; Sandy Hook-Staten Island
NY187620224Hudson-Wappinger; Middle Hudson; Sandy Hook-Staten Island; Southern Long Island
NC196820207Albemarle; Cape Fear; Fishing; Haw; Pee Dee; Upper Neuse; Upper Yadkin
OH199020224Cuyahoga; Lower Great Miami, Indiana, Ohio; Raccoon-Symmes; Upper Scioto
SC196819971Edisto-South Carolina Coastal
TN197020122Lower Clinch; Lower Cumberland
WV196320212Upper Ohio-Shade; West Fork

Table last updated 7/14/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for states where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).


Habitat: Locations include shallow (0.3 - 1.0 m deep) ponds, lakes, slow-moving streams, rivers, reservoirs, freshwater tidal waters, and wetlands.

Life history: Nelumbo nucifera can grow up to 10 m in a year by vegetative spread from rhizomes. Flowers and fruits are observed from June to October, and take 5-6 years to reach maturity. Flowers are self-compatible, but also protogynous (styles mature before stamens) and thermogenic, creating heat for pollinators such as bees, flies, and beetles. Seeds can survive for hundreds and maybe thousands of years, requiring scarification to initiate germination (Les 2018).

Tolerances: This species prefers rich and fertile soils (Hyde silty loam, marl, and muck), and can tolerate acidic (pH: 5.7-6.8) waters. It requires full sunlight and summer temperatures above 25°C.

Community: Nelumbo are eaten by deer, beavers, muskrats, and porcupines, while ducks are known to eat the fruits (achenes). The leaves create shelter and shade for fish and invertebrates, including mosquitos. The freshwater bryozoan, Pectinatella magnifica, grows on the underside of floating leaves. The N. nucifera populations in North America host larvae of the moth, Psara obscuralis (Les 2018).

Means of Introduction: Initial introductions are intentional as a water garden plants, and Nelumbo hybrids are cultivated, but the chance of hybridization in the wild is unknown.

Secondary introductions likely occur naturally; the receptacles and fruits are buoyant and easily float downstream, while waterfowl can eat the fruits and carry them long distances (endozoochory) (Les 2018).

Status: Established throughout eastern North America

Impact of Introduction:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...


Declines in macrophyte and invertebrate richness and diversity are associated with invasions by Nelumbo nucifera (Mastrantuono and Mancinelli 1999).

References: (click for full references)

Les, D.H. 2018. Aquatic dicotyledons of North America: ecology, life history, and systematics. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.

Mastrantuono, L. and T. Mancinelli. 1999. Long-Term Changes of Zoobenthic Fauna and Submerged Vegetation in the Shallow Lake Monterosi (Italy). Limnologica 29(1999):160-167. http://www.urbanfischer.de/joumals/limno.

Author: Johnson, A., and I.A. Pfingsten

Revision Date: 8/30/2023

Citation Information:
Johnson, A., and I.A. Pfingsten, 2024, Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn.: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=244, Revision Date: 8/30/2023, Access Date: 7/14/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/14/2024].

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