August 4, 2022
Fun Fact: Kew Gardens lost track of a giant waterlily with three-metre-wide leaves for 177 years.
Until now, Victoria boliviana was mis-identified as one of the two known varieties V. amazonica and V. cruziana, but researchers at Kew Gardens noticed differences in the patterns of the spines that are used to clear space for their unfurling leaves. V. boliviana is now recognized as the largest species of giant waterlily. Its leaves expand by 25 cm a day and can hold the weight of an adult (more than 170 lbs). Turns out a mis-labelled specimen has been sitting at Kew since 1845!
In addition to their famously large leaves, giant waterlilies also have a very cool two-night reproductive cycle. On night one, the temperature of the white female flower rises 10 degrees C, triggering it to open and attracting pollinator beetles to its sweet, pineapple scent. At dawn, the flower cools and closes, trapping the beetles inside. They get to spend the day cool and shaded and sipping away at nectar while the flower changes from white to pink and male to female. On the second night, the newly male flower opens, brushing the beetles with pollen as they leave and head to another white female flower.
If you’re interested in reviewing the paper about the new species, follow this link: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2022.883151/full
If you’re into unnecessarily dramatic plant videos, follow this link to see a V. amazonica leaf unfurl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM-Ilh2lHZk