The species, named victoria boliviana, was discovered when it had been in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London for 177 years. Until then, researchers confused it with the victoria cruziana and the victoria amazonicawhich also grow in London Botanical Gardens, but it has been determined that it is a species in its own right.
The victoria boliviana was named in honor of Queen Victoria and because she is from Bolivia.
Natalia Przylumska, a biodiversity genomics researcher for the Royal Botanic Garden, describes what sets the plant apart from others:meters in diameter”,”text”:”They have huge round leaves and the leaves can reach more than 3 meters in diameter”}}’>They have huge round leaves and the leaves can reach over 3 meters in diametershe says.
The thorns that border the outline of the leaves would be a defense mechanism against possible predators tempted to eat the plant.
Natalia Przylumska believes that the thorns allow the plants to keep out any other competition that might overshadow this sun-loving species.
It’s not very pleasant to grow close so these water lilies can completely dominate their surroundingsshe explains.
The plant produces a single flower several times a year that lasts only two nights. The flowers, covered with thorns, are first white then turn pink before fading.
One of the unique attributes of this water lily is that its flower temporarily traps creeping beetles.
It can therefore be completely covered in pollen before flying awayillustrates the researcher.
The research team published an article in the scientific journal Frontiers in Plant Science (New window) earlier this week.
It was Carlos Magdalena, a water lily expert and one of Kew Gardens’ horticulturists, who suspected the existence of a third species of giant water lily in the greenhouses.
In 2016, the Santa Cruz de La Sierra Botanical Garden and La Rinconada Gardens, Bolivia, sent him seeds of what they believed to be the new species. He germinated them side by side with seeds he collected from greenhouses at Kew Gardens.
Thanks to the presence of the thorns, but also the shape of the seed, he saw his suspicions confirmed: he had before him a species that had not yet been identified by the scientific community.
The lure of the water lily
Giant water lilies have always been a source of fascination for humans, especially during the Victorian era, according to Sean Graham, professor in the Department of Botany at the University of British Columbia.
Giant water lilies have been iconic plants in botanic gardens since Victorian times, they were used to attract royal patronage back thensays the specialist.
But in this case, he feels that the giant water lily has not been well studied, mainly because this species was under-represented in museum collections.
Ancient specimens were destroyed or lost during World War II, making scientific research on them even more difficulthe says.
With information from Keena Alwahaidi and As It Happens