Tuesday, September 26, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 10, 1445 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

The enchanting lotus garden of Wadi Shab

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Being one of Oman's most visited wadis and home to a spectacular waterfall hidden inside a cave, travelers speak of Wadi Shab with a sense of awe and reverence, often describing it as "a beautiful paradise" or "a must-visit" when in Oman.


If you've recently visited Wadi Shab, the lotus invasion happening right at the entrance of the wadi will have caught your attention.


The lotus has long been a symbol of purity and rebirth in many cultures, and its power as an attraction has been tested in places like Thailand where the lotus flowers are revered and used in many different ways other than decorations.


Legend has it that the petals of the lotus blossoms are kissed by angels before they open each morning.


While visitors are of the impression that the lotus plants just appeared overnight, locals living in the area said that the plants had been there for quite some time and just gotten social media attention when they started flowering.


A lotus life cycle goes through several stages, starting with seed germination in the muddy depths of freshwater bodies. Initially, lotus seedlings bear floating leaves as they establish themselves. During their juvenile stage, lotus plants extend their stems to reach sunlight, developing the iconic, flat, circular leaves that float gracefully on the water's surface. They flourish in the vegetative growth phase, producing large, water-repellent leaves and anchoring themselves with submerged stems. Maturity heralds the reproductive phase, where lotus plants produce fragrant, eye-catching flowers atop tall stalks. These flowers open early in the day, attracting pollinators, before closing in the afternoon. Following successful pollination, seed pods, or lotus pods, form to house the developing seeds.


In Southeast Asia, including countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, lotus flowers often bloom during the wet or monsoon season, which typically falls between June and September. However, specific timing may vary by country and exact location within these countries.


In Oman, locals reported that the flowers bloom usually in the cooler months but are sporadically spread apart in some other months.


Lotus plants, including the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) and the American lotus (Nelumbo lutea), have the potential to become invasive in non-native habitats. Their rapid growth and ability to form dense colonies can disrupt local ecosystems by outcompeting native aquatic vegetation. Invasive lotus plants alter water flow, increase sedimentation, and affect nutrient cycling, negatively impacting water quality and other aquatic organisms.


The invasive potential of lotus plants is especially associated with the American lotus, particularly in regions where it is not native. Once established, these invasive populations can be challenging to manage and control due to their robust rhizomatous root systems.


For now, the lotus plants growing in Wadi Shab are celebrated for their beauty. It is becoming an attraction, adding another reason to visit the wadi. Will you make a stop by the lotus garden when you visit Wadi Shab?


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