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Lotus leaves, Shanghai, China The leaves of Nelumbo nucifera, aka the lotus, can float on the water’s surface or rise above it on taller stalks, while the roots dig deep into the soil of the river or lakebed. The blooms figure prominently in artwork depicting the Buddha and are a crucial part of Hindu symbolism as well. But the lotus also has a gustatory appeal. The root is a common ingredient in many Asian cuisines, cooked and often pickled.