Sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) is an ornamental plant that is also used for food and medicine. This basal eudicot species is especially important from an evolutionary perspective, as it occupies a critical phylogenetic position in flowering plants. Here we report the draft genome of a wild strain of sacred lotus. The assembled genome is 792 Mb, which is approximately 85–90% of genome size estimates. We annotated 392 Mb of repeat sequences and 36 385 protein-coding genes within the genome. Using these sequence data, we constructed a phylogenetic tree and confirmed the basal location of sacred lotus within eudicots. Importantly, we found evidence for a relatively recent whole-genome duplication event; any indication of the ancient paleo-hexaploid event was, however, absent. Genomic analysis revealed evidence of positive selection within 28 embryo-defective genes and one annexin gene that may be related to the long-term viability of sacred lotus seed. We also identified a significant expansion of starch synthase genes, which probably elevated starch levels within the rhizome of sacred lotus. Sequencing this strain of sacred lotus thus provided important insights into the evolution of flowering plant and revealed genetic mechanisms that influence seed dormancy and starch synthesis.