Lotus (genus)

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 Lotus subsp. var.  
Lotus formosissimus
Habit: herbaceous
Height: to
Width: to
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Fabaceae > Lotus var. ,

Pasture with Lotus corniculatus (Common Bird's-foot Trefoil, Birdsfoot deervetch)
Lotus is a genus that includes bird's-foot trefoils and deervetches and contains many dozens of species distributed world-wide. Depending on the taxonomic authority, roughly between 70 and 150 are accepted. Lotus is a genus of legume and its members are adapted to a wide range of habitats, from coastal environments to high altitudes. Most species have leaves with five leaflets; two of these are at the extreme base of the leaf, with the other three at the tip of a naked midrib. This gives the appearance of a pair of large stipules below a "petiole" bearing a trefoil of three leaflets – in fact the true stipules are minute, soon falling or withering. Some species have pinnate leaves with up to 15 leaflets. The flowers are in clusters of 3-10 together at the apex of a stem with some basal leafy bracts; they are pea-flower shaped, usually vivid yellow, but occasionally orange or red. The seeds develop in three or four straight, strongly diverging pods, which together make a shape reminiscent of the diverging toes of a small bird, leading to the common name "bird's-foot".

Some species, such as L. berthelotii from the Canary Islands, are grown as ornamental plants. L. corniculatus is an invasive species in some regions of North America and Australia.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Lotus (an old Greek name). Leguminosae. Herbs and subshrubs, grown for the yellow, purple, rose- colored or white flowers.

Plants glabrous, silky or hirsute: lvs. with 3-5 lfts. crowded at the apex of the petiole and commonly 2 joined to the st. and resembling stipules: fls. mostly pea- shaped, often in axillary few-fld. umbels, rarely solitary; standard broad, contracted at base; wings obovate; keel incurved or inflexed, beaked; calyx-lobes longer than the tube; stamens 9 and 1, connate but free from the petals: pod oblong or linear.—Species 80-100, largely in the Medit. region, but also in S. Afr., Temp. Asia and Austral. By some botanists, the genus Hosackia (which see) has been united with Lotus, but it differs in having usually morel lfts., short calyx-teeth, obtuse keel. One lotus (L. corniculatus) has become established in N. Amer. Lotus nigricans of cult, is Kennedya, nigricans.

Lotus meant several things to the ancients: (1) the Greek lotus, a leguminous plant on which horses fed. This was probably what we call to-day Lotus cor- niculalus, the common bird's-foot trefoil of temperate regions. (2) The Cyrenean lotus, an African shrub, the fruit of which was eaten by certain North African tribes who were called lotus-eaters. The fruit was said to be honey-sweet, the size of an olive and in taste like a date. This was probably Zizyphus Lotus, a prickly shrub whose fruit is, however, considered inferior to that of the common jujube, Zizyphus saliva. Other conjectures have been: Celtis australis, a tree which has a small, sweet berry; Nitraria tridentata, a thorny desert shrub whose succulent fruit has a stimulating quality, and Rhanmus Lotus, another North African plant. European lotus is a name for Diospyros Lotus, a kind of date plum which is cultivated in southern Europe, but the fruit is hardly edible. (3) The Egyptian lotus or sacred lily of the Nile. This is Nymphsea Lotus, which, like the Hindu lotus, has rose-colored as well as white flowers. American cultivators at the present time almost universally consider that the true Egyptian lotus is Nelumbium speciosum, now called Nelumbo, but Nelumbium speciosum is not a native of Egypt. (4) The Hindu and Chinese lotus, also called the sacred or Pythagorean bean. This is Nelumbo indica, better known us Nelumbium speciosum. The name lotus was doubtless used for other water-lilies, particularly the blue-flowered Nymphsea caerulea.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



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