The Nil Manel (Nymphaea stellata) Blue Water Lily was chosen as the national flower of Sri Lanka in February 1986. The Blue Water Lily of exquisite beauty is a common sight throughout the island. Growing in shallow fresh waters with no season for blooming, the Blue Water Lily thrives wherever lakes, ponds or marsh land is found.
Kamalam, Alli Tamarei (Tamil)
There are three types of Authentic Water Lilies in Sri Lanka. In Sinhala they are referred to as Olu (white) the Nil Manel (magenta with yellow in the middle) and the Nelum (pink and white colors).
In February 1986 Nil Manel or blue water lily (Nymphaea stellata, though it has been recently renamed as Nymphaea nouchali) was chosen as the National flower. Nil Manel is found all the part of Sri Lanka and grows in the shallow water.
The manel is most popular among the local variety for its color and because it blooms from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. - almost the whole day.
It is with the first rays of the sun that the closed bud of the Manel opens and shows the world the beautiful pink blush that touches its petals. Blooming in shades of pink, blue and white on magenta with yellow in the middle, and also this plant has its roots deep in muddy waters.
One of several flowering plants which show striking adaptations to life in water, this flower is highly valued in aquatic horticulture in Sri Lanka. It has several local varieties which differ in size and color.
The flower blooms on a long stalk and floats on the surface. Each is 7-20 cm in diameter, has four sepals and numerous petals which vary in size and color. The petals are usually pale whitish violet or less commonly light blue and occasionally pinkish purple.
The botanical name of the flower is Nymphaea stellata Wild. The first part of the name has been derived from the Greek word "nymphaia" which means water lily and the second part from the Latin word "stellatus" meaning star. This is because in a lake having an abundance of this plant, the leaves and flowers give the appearance of a star studded sky.
We find the Apsaravas in Sigiriya frescoes holding these flowers in their hands. Seeds and the tubes are used as a vegetable by villagers while leaves stem and flowers are used in herbal medicine.
The plant grows in streams, tanks and ponds throughout Sri Lanka’s low country and flowers almost all year round.