Discovery of a third species of giant water lily at Kew Gardens | Plants

A giant water lily grown at Kew Gardens has been designated as new to science, in the first such discovery in over a century.

Garden scientists in south-west London have suspected for decades that there may be a third species of giant water lily and worked with researchers at its birthplace in Bolivia to see if their thesis was correct.

In 2016, the Bolivian institutions Santa Cruz de la Sierra Botanic Garden and La Rinconada Gardens donated a collection of seeds from giant water lilies of the presumed third species. These were germinated and grown at Kew, so they could be grown side by side with the other two species. The scientists also studied the DNA of the three plants and found that they were markedly different.

The three species of the genus are amazon victoria, cruziana and Bolivian, named after Queen Victoria. The results, published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, suggest that the new species is more closely related to Victoria cruzianaand that they diverged about a million years ago.

Natalia Przelomska, a Kew scientist who worked on the project, said: “In the face of a rapid rate of biodiversity loss, describing new species is a task of fundamental importance; we hope that our multidisciplinary framework can inspire other researchers who are looking for approaches to quickly and robustly identify new species.

Carlos Magdalena said the discovery of the third species was the greatest achievement of his 20-year career at Kew. Photograph: Ines Stuart-Davidson/Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

With leaves growing up to three meters in the wild, it is also the largest giant water lily on the planet. The striking lily has flowers that change from white to pink and bear spiny petioles, the stem which attaches the leaf to the stem. Occurring naturally in the aquatic ecosystems of the Llanos de Moxos, the current record for the tallest plant of the species is held by the gardens of La Rinconada in Bolivia, where the leaves have reached 3.2 meters.

Specimens of this large aquatic plant have been in the Kew Herbarium for 177 years and in the National Herbarium of Bolivia for 34 years, but it was generally thought to be one of the other two species.

Scientists named it Bolivian Victoria, in honor of his South American home. There is a gap in our knowledge of giant water lilies as there are very few specimens of the original plants used to classify and name species in Victorian times. This could be because giant water lilies are difficult to collect in the wild.

Kew Scientific and Botanical Research Horticulturist Carlos Magdalena said the discovery was the greatest achievement of his 20-year career at Kew.

He added: “Since I first saw a photo of this plant online in 2006, I was convinced it was a new species. Horticulturalists know their plants first hand; we are often able to recognize them at a glance.

“It was clear to me that this plant didn’t quite fit the description of either Victoria species and therefore it had to be a third party. For nearly two decades, I have scrutinized every image of wild Victorian water lilies on the internet, a luxury that a botanist of the 18th, 19th and most of the 20th century did not have.

The specimen from Bolivia used to describe the new species was collected in 1988 by Dr. Stephan G Beck, professor emeritus at the National Herbarium of Bolivia, who believed it to be victoria cruziana.

Lucy Smith
Scientists named the plant Bolivian Victoria, in honor of his South American home. Photograph: Ines Stuart-Davidson/Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

He said: “When the National Herbarium of Bolivia was born in 1984, there were very few scientific collections for Bolivia and many places to study, but I focused my interest on an area of ​​the Llanos de Moxos. For several years, I had the opportunity to collect aquatic plants in the flooded areas of the Yacuma River, and I obviously wanted to see the Queen Victoria which the locals told me about.

“However, it took me years to find this wonderful plant. Finally, in March 1988, after traveling up the Yacuma River for more than two hours looking for tributaries with several huge leaves and a few flowers, I found them. collected and preserved in the National Herbarium of Bolivia, which turned out to be a specimen of Bolivian Victoria, now the type specimen. It was a great find that I will always remember.

The plant can now be seen in the Water Lilies House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens. Kew is the only place in the world where you can see the three described species of Victoria side by side.

Giant water lilies – the wonder of the Victorian era

The Kew Gardens Water Lily House opened in 1852 and was built to house the giant plants discovered by explorers in the Amazon Basin.

The giant water lily amazon victoria attracts crowds who marvel at its huge circular leaves, strong enough to support the weight of a child.

A race to present the first giant water lily flower to Queen Victoria has taken place among botanists, after Kew Gardens tried for a decade to cultivate the seeds. Six of these germinated successfully, some were saved and the rest were sent to Syon House in London and Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

Despite the astonishment of the Western world, the plant was well known to the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, who used it for food and medicine.

About Charles Holmes

Check Also

11,000 potted plants destroyed in 2 raids – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Police use a Kubota tractor to destroy cannabis during a raid in the Eagle Point …