Newly discovered giant water lily species has largest leaf

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Newly discovered giant water lily species has largest leaf

This plant had been hidden in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for 177 years, but had until then been confused with other species of giant water lilies.

Scientists in London come to identify a species of water lily whose leaves can reach more than three meters in diameter and whose flowers are as big as a human head. They are the largest water lilies in the world.

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 Victoria cruziana and Victoria amazonica, which also grow in London botanic gardens, but it has been determined that it is a whole species.

The Victoria bolivianawas named in honor of Queen Victoria and because it originated in Bolivia.

Natalia Przylumska, a biodiversity genomics researcher for the Royal Botanic Garden, describes what sets the plant apart from others: They have huge round leaves, and the leaves can reach over 3 meters in diameter, she 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 any other competition that might overshadow this sun-loving species at bay. It's not very pleasant to grow close so these water lilies can completely dominate their environment, she explains.

The plant produces a single flower several times a year, which lasts only two nights. The flowers, covered with thorns, are first white then turn pink before fading.

The thorn-covered water lily blooms for two nights. Its flower changes from white to pink.

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 away, illustrates the researcher.

The team of researchers published an article in the scientific journal Frontiers in Plant Scienceearlier 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 greenhouses.

Researcher Carlos Magdalena traveled to Bolivia to study specimens of the plant in their natural environment.

In 2016, the Botanical Garden of Santa Cruz de La Sierra and the Gardens of La Rinconada, Bolivia, sent him seeds of what he 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.

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 at the time, says the specialist.

But in this case, he feels that the giant water lily has not been well studied, mainly because this species was underrepresented in museum collections.

Old specimens were destroyed or lost during World War II, which made scientific research on them even more difficult, he says.< /p>

With information from Keena Alwahaidi and As It Happens

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