How do lotus leaves stay clean (AKA protect from dirt or excess liquid)?
I recently visited the Denver Botanic Gardens and saw that they have a lotus plant, so you know I had to make this video!
Nelumbo nucifera is an aquatic plant with large flat leaves that float on the surface of water, and they often inhabit muddy ponds or marshes. These leaves are able to remain clean because of their microstructure, which has extensive folding (in the epidermal cells) and exposed wax crystals. AskNature clearly describes the mechanism in more detail: “As water and air adhere less well than water and solids, roughened surfaces tend to reduce adhesive force on water droplets, as trapped air in the interstitial spaces of the roughened surface result in a reduced liquid-to-solid contact area. This allows the self-attraction of the polar molecule of water to express more fully, causing it to form spheres.”
The lotus leaf is able to stay clean without any harsh chemical detergents, like we need to use for many of our cleaning needs. Using freely-available energy like wind or gravity, these water droplets on the leaf roll off, picking up dirt along the way.
Bonus fun fact: Every part of the lotus has unique adaptations. The seeds are said to remain viable for many years (one estimate is around 500 years!) because of the tough, durable seed coating and repair enzymes that minimize damage, resist fungal attacks, and help the seed survive harsh extremes. Additionally, lotus flower produces heat when it begins to bloom that attracts pollinating insects!!
So my question to you: what can we learn from the lotus leaf?
Check out AskNature to explore some designs (such as stain-resistant fabric and self-cleaning paint) that have been developed by learning from this cool plant!