News items have popped up purporting the blossoming of the rare Udumbara flower, which, according to Buddhist legend, only blooms every 3,000 years. According to followers of the Falun Gong, Buddhist scripture describes the Udumbara as a “product of supernatural phenomena…a celestial flower (that) does not exist in the mundane world.” Some sources that I’ve found say it’s a sign that a new Buddha has come to the world.
The problem is that it’s not a flower at all. It’s….lacewing eggs.
Here’s a picture published in the article Rare Buddhist flower found under nuns washing machine in the London Telegraph on March 1, 2010.
Here are some purported udumbara on a Buddha’s face:
For comparison, here are a couple of pictures of lacewing eggs. The eggs are laid atop the silken stalks to keep the the hungry larvae from eating one another.
Lacewings are certainly wonderful predators to have in your garden for aphid control, and they’re available for sale (here’s one online source). Perhaps to the chagrin of the Buddhists, they will “bloom” again next year, and every year after as well. It’s too bad that the lacewing’s real story–and usefulness to humans–can be so easily obscured by a little superstition. This spring, look around you and see if you can catch a glimpse of the aphid lions patrolling your garden. Treat them well; your roses will thank you!