Sri Lanka: Confusion over national flower multiplied by erroneous publications

The Ministerial Consultative Committee on Environment recently discussed at length whether the Sinhala name of the national flower of Sri Lanka is Manel or Nil Manel.

Senior Professor of the Department of Botany, University of Peradeniya Deepthi Yakandawala, and Senior Professor of the Faculty of Agriculture and Plantation Management, University of Wayamba Kapila Yakandawala made presentations on the unresolved and controversial issue as to what is the national flower of Sri Lanka for many years.

They said the national flower of Sri Lanka had been declared on 26 February 1986. It was called the ‘Blue Water Lily’ by a cabinet paper. But the professor said that a photo of a ‘Purple Water Lily’ was used to depict the ‘Blue Water Lily.’

Accordingly, in 2010, the professor and others informed the President, the Minister of Environment, the Secretary to the Ministry of Environment, and the Director of the Biodiversity Secretariat of the mistake made in 1986. Accordingly, in 2015, the correct picture of the national flower was published. But in 2015, the Ministry of Environment published a photograph of the correct flower while declaring the Sinhala name of Sri Lanka’s national flower as Manel, the English name is ‘Blue Water Lily,’ and the Tamil name is Nilothpalam.

The Ministry of Environment pointed out that the reason for the change of the name Nil Manel to Manel had been based on the opinion expressed by the veteran Sinhala language expert, Prof. Wimal G. Balagalle, on the national flower. In his opinion, the Sinhala name of the national flower should be Manel since the meaning of Manel is the noblest blue flower.

They emphasized that according to the globally accepted standards of plant classification, the scientific name may be subject to change, but the common names used by the general public should not be changed.

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