Saving the World's
Coldest Growing Lotus
by Alexander Nijman, Leidschendam,
Click images and maps to enlarge
Nelumbo komarovii survives in the coldest conditions of
any reported lotus. Taxonomists place it within N. nucifera,
but tradition gives it a position of its own. It grows in the
Amur region of Far Eastern Russia, just north of China and North
My first notion of the occurence of a cold growing N. nucifera
was from a Russian nature series 15 years ago or so called The
Russian Bear . In the documentary about the Volga delta, it was
mentioned that N. nucifera could be found in the Russian
Far East. This was shortly after the cold war period, and because
this area was off limits to westerners, little was known about
Photo by Igor Shpilenok, www.shpilenok.com
When I studied at Leiden University, I looked in the Rijks
Herbaruim there for more information about N. nucifera
in Eastern Russia. They had an old book, the 'Tentamen Florae
Ussuriensis' written by Eduard August von Regel (1815-1892) and
published in St. Petersburg June 7, 1861, and I found a reference
to the Nelumbo. Later when I got my computer I started
searching the internet.
The name Nelumbo komarovii may be invalid to taxonomists
as it is just N. nucifera, but I use it as a keyword.
When you search this name it always refers to the Nelumbo
nucifera from Eastern Russia. The Russians named it for Russian
botanist Vladimir Leontjevich Komarov (1869-1945).
Russia lists N. komarovii in its Red Data Book of rare
and endangered plants. Though it can be found in Birobidzhan
west of Habarovsk and on the Zea River, it grows primarily in
two nature reserves protected by the government.
The more northerly reserve is Khingansky Zapovednik, located
at 49° latitude north, close to the lower Bureya River and
the town of Arkhara. Summers there are the hottest in the Russian
Far East. The mean air temperatures range from 20.5°C (69°F)
in July and -25.5°C (-14°F) in January. In 2006 a low
temperature was reported of -42°C (-43°F). The warm period,
with temperatures above zero C, lasts for 100-110 days and the
growing period for vegetation is 140-160 days.
The Khingansky Reserve was established in 1963 and named a
wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention
in 1994. The red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), one
of the rarest crane species on Earth, is the symbol of Khingansky.
N. komarovii is found principally in oxbox lakes in the
The Ramsar Convention
"The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran,
in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework
for national action and international cooperation for the conservation
and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently
151 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1594 wetland
sites, totaling 134.7 million hectares, designated for inclusion
in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance."
N. komarovii also occurs in the Khankaisky Zapovednik,
situated on the border with China, approximately 160 km (99 miles)
north of Vladivostok. January, the coldest month of the year,
has a mean temperature of -20°C (-4°F), while July is
the warmest at mean +20°C (68°F).
Lake Khanka, one of the largest fresh water bodies in Asia,
was recognized as a wetland of international importance under
the Ramsar Convention in 1976. In 1996, Russia and China signed
an agreement establishing the Lake Khanka International Nature
Photo from www.fegi.ru
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