In 2007, India celebrated its large family of roses with the issue of a very unusual set of commemorative stamps. The stamps featured four different kinds of roses, namely Bhim, Delhi Princess, Jawahar and Neelam. But perhaps even more interesting is that the stamp sheet was actually fragrant. India is home to a spectacular array of roses and other flowering plants from all over the world.
The lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) is the national flower of India. It is an aquatic plant with floating leaves, lotus blooms and long stems, usually found in shallow, muddy waters. The fragrant flowers are mostly bright pink in color. Historically, the lotus has cultural and religious significance in India and in Asia. In religious terms, this flower is the symbol of various Hindu gods and goddesses and appears prominently in statuary, paintings, murals and other religious depictions. The religious icons are often shown seated on large lotus flowers, or holding them. The lotus is also a highly auspicious symbol in cultural terms. It represents purity, knowledge, enlightenment, honor and good fortune. The lotus plant also has many medicinal uses including treatments for kidney, spleen and heart conditions, mushroom poisoning as well as insomnia. Additionally, the lotus seeds, leaves and tubers are all sources of food.
The peacock flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) is a native perennial of India, and a member of the Caesalpiniaceae or Gulmohar family. One of its other common names, is dwarf poinciana. This small tree grows to a height of about 10 feet, and does not lose its leaves. Clusters of red-orange flowers grace the tree's long and straight stems. One variety of the peacock plant exhibits yellow blooms. As a note of interest, the Indian peacock is the country's national bird.
Karanda (Carissa carandas) is a member of the Apocynaceae or oleander family. It is a perennial shrub, native to India, but grows in carefree fashion as a vine if not kept in check. Karanda flowers from spring through fall, producing small, white blooms that contrast with the dark green opposite leaves. From around May, karanda bears clusters of purplish-black, grape-like fruit favored for making jellies and jams, as well as eaten fresh.
Showy inula (Inula grandiflora) is a native perennial plant that is a member of the Asteraceae or sunflower family. This plant's striking orange-yellow flowers grow at altitudes of over 5,000 feet in areas from Kashmir to Nepal. The showy inula graces a commemorative stamp issued by the postal authorities of India.