Lotus leaf

Lotus flower and leaf
Image courtesy of Edupic.net

The Lotus plant (Nelumbo nucifera) is revered by Buddhists for its purity, at least in part because it stays clean even though it lives in muddy water. The plant uses a superhydrophobic surface to ensure that droplets of water roll off its leaves and carry with them particles from the dirty water. The waxy, bumpy surface can be seen using a scanning electron microscope. This enables the leaves to float and to photosynthesise.

Lotus leaf with water droplet at centre
Image courtesy of Edupic.net
SEM image of lotus leaf
Image courtesy of Rashmi Nanjundaswamy / Lawrence Hall of Science, Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

The Lotus is one of the more spectacular plants and superhydrophobicity with self-cleaning is also called the Lotus-Effect® (trademark). More details of the role of nano-hairs in self-cleaning can be found here.

Publication

The purity of sacred lotus or escape from contamination in biological surfaces W. Barthlott and C. Neinhuis, Planta 202 (1997) 1–8.