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Saving the World's
Coldest Growing Lotus

by Alexander Nijman, Leidschendam, The Netherlands
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 Korea. 

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 it.

Photo by Igor Shpilenok, 

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 Khingano-Arkharinskaya floodplain. 

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."

Maps from Ornamental Plants in their Natural Habitats - The Far East, Russia
Missouri Botanical Garden

Record of -42°C (-43°F) at
Arhara/Arkhara January 2006

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 Reserve.

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Links to more information about Khingansky Zapovednik:

More about Khankaisky Zapovednik:

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