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David Emery

Flowers Growing on Steel? I Beg to Differ...

By June 20, 2007

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Via Ananova, news that a Chinese man has discovered tiny, delicate flowers growing on a steel pipe in his garden. "The stems are slimmer than human hair, and altogether there are 38 small white flowers on top," he was quoted as saying. Locals believe they are specimens of the miraculous Youtan Poluo flower -- called "Udumbara" or "Udambara" in Sanskrit -- which according to legend only blossoms once every 3,000 years. But the story doesn't end there.

The same phenomenon was noted several years ago in Seoul, Korea, where miniature flowers suddenly sprouted from the forehead of a statue of Buddha, and again in 2004, when they were found growing near a Korean government office building.

The photos accompanying these stories document what appear to be miniscule white buds suspended on threadlike stalks. Trouble is, they don't match any known species of plant life, while bearing an exact resemblance to the eggs of an insect known as the lacewing. Lacewing larvae are cannibalistic, so females lay their eggs at the end of filaments the size of human hairs, keeping them out of reach of one another when they hatch. Strange but true.

And what of the Udumbara flower, which we are told only blossoms once every three millennia? It is a myth, a metaphor in Buddhist scripture for how rare it is to encounter a Buddha in the flesh. From the Lotus Sutra:
"The Buddhas are as difficult to meet as the Udumbara flower. It is also as difficult as it would be for a one-eyed tortoise to meet with a hole in a floating log. But our blessings from former lives are deep and thick, and so in this life we have encountered the Buddhadharma. Therefore, Father and Mother, hear us and allow us to leave the home-life. Why? The Buddhas are difficult to get to meet, and such a time is hard to encounter."
(Thanks to Rick Elsey for the tip on lacewings.)


June 20, 2007 at 8:57 pm
(1) opie_jeanne says:

According to the site below, the Udumbara is a gigantic blue lotus.


On the Wikipedia site, there is a remark that the Udumbara is an imaginary flower that some people confuse with lacewing eggs.


June 21, 2007 at 12:21 am
(2) Frank says:

It doesn’t explain the claims of “The flowers open(ing) in the mornings, then close(ing) when the sun grows strong.”


June 21, 2007 at 1:18 pm
(3) Annalee says:

I don’t think Lacewing eggs bloom into flowers that have a diameter of 1mm. This is an amazing thing!!!

June 22, 2007 at 12:15 pm
(4) Bonnie says:

Interesting that the insects and possible flowers look so much alike. But what I read about the insect is the eggs are laid on the threads but also on leaves or plant life of some sort. So why were they put on metal pipes in a garden where there would be other plant life to lay the eggs on. Also as someone else stated does the eggs move somehow to appear they close in the hot sun??

June 22, 2007 at 1:10 pm
(5) urbanlegends says:

To those who are concerned that the lacewing egg explanation doesn’t account for the “flowers” opening and closing — consider the likelihood that such reports are either erroneous or flat-out lies.

June 23, 2007 at 6:21 pm
(6) CD says:

The guy who submitted this story is identified as ‘Grandpa’. Grandpa has mighty keen vision if he can distinguish the difference between open and closed states in a flower with a diameter of 1mm.
It is amazing what sort of ‘details’ one can see in an unfamiliar object, especially if the details confirm one’s preconceived notion of the object’s identity. To put it another way: If it looks like a flower, it must open and close. It then becomes easy to ‘see’ that opening and closing. Like reports of stone idols ‘drinking’ milk, believing in the possibility is key to seeing it happen.

June 27, 2007 at 5:47 am
(7) shannon says:

I have them growing on the grill of my house in india!! Il post a pic of them soon on my orkut profile.

June 28, 2007 at 7:57 am
(8) Chris says:

So where is the picture of them open? My suspician is that the man who found them made the claim to the media but it has not been validated. (AKA: he lied to get famous and disavow himself from confusing insect eggs with flowers.)

June 29, 2007 at 3:44 am
(9) shannon says:

well I havent seen them open either.
but I know this much. We don’t get lacewings here. and its the rainy season!!

August 8, 2007 at 8:46 pm
(10) andy says:


The Great One for whom ALL humanity, knowingly or not, awaits is NOW HERE.

This is likely one of MANY, MANY signs and wonders that His public appearance is very imminent…(see below for numerous miracles)


August 12, 2007 at 3:47 pm
(11) Ian says:

For those who think that Udumbara flowers aren’t real, watch this news on Youtube, copy the link into your browzer:


August 17, 2007 at 9:31 pm
(12) Marg says:

If you have ever seen the eggs of the lacewing you would have instantly recognized them on the steel pipe.

September 4, 2007 at 4:09 am
(13) Buda says:

Does lacewing also only blossom every 3000 years? I am the Buda of life and it took me ages to get them flowers to do their stuff just right! Anyway the real sybolism is watch out you’re in for a rough ride over the next few years :O)

July 1, 2008 at 4:31 am
(14) Nana says:

I have seen it open and close – actually, I photographed the fully opened flower. It definately is a rare flower. Contact me if you want to have a look.

August 18, 2008 at 4:47 am
(15) drmd says:
September 5, 2008 at 4:30 am
(16) amagosa says:
June 26, 2012 at 11:42 pm
(17) biologist says:

lacewings are rare in asia so the theory of eggs may be false

March 23, 2013 at 7:54 am
(18) Audrey says:
January 1, 2014 at 12:44 am
(19) Viet Linh says:

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