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After greeting me and taking my himation, Amram’s narrow-eyed, wooden-faced, doorkeeper escorted me to a padded stone bench in the atrium. While I rested alongside its pool of floating lotus blossoms, he sent for two maids. One placed a bronze footstool under my feet, removed my boots, wiped my feet with a damp towel, and fitted me with a pair of slippers. The other brought me a small mahogany serving table set with a silver chalice, a pitcher of cold water, and a flagon of wine from Palestine.

But lotus blossoms are more than beautiful. They have been a source of food and drink for thousands of years. Recently, they have been used to remove pollutants and heavy metals from wastewater. Moreover, their floating leaves reduce sunlight from reaching the lower layers of the water thereby suppressing the growth of algae and increasing the oxygen content of the water.

Lotus blossoms also have the remarkable ability to regulate the temperature of their flowers much as we warm-blooded animals regulate the temperature of our bodies. Plant physiologists at the University of Adelaide in Australia have found that the flowers can maintain a temperature of 86–95 °F, even when the air temperature drops to 50 °F.

But perhaps most amazing to Miriam would be that an individual lotus blossom plant can live for a thousand years. Click here for the novels in her series.

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