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Scientists discover a new species of giant water lily that can grow up to 3 metres wide

  • July 11, 2022

Story Transcript

Researchers in London say they have identified a new species of the giant water lily plant — after discovering it had been sitting serenely in their collection for 177 years.

The new species, dubbed Victoria boliviana, was at first thought to be one of the two previously known species, Victoria amazonica and Victoria cruziana, because it was so similar.

The overall genus Victoria was originally named after the U.K.’s Queen Victoria; boliviana comes from the fact that it originated from Bolivia.

But a closer look reveals several unique characteristics.

“They have these huge floating round leaves,” Natalia Przelomska, a biodiversity genomics researcher with the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, told As It Happens guest host Ginella Massa. “The leaves can grow to over 10 feet in diameter,” or more than three metres.

Researchers at Kew Gardens measuring the Victoria boliviana. (RBG Kew)

Like the other species, Victoria boliviana grow impressive flowers, which only bloom for about two days, turning from white to pink.

And, if you come close, they have spines around the rim and underneath the plant. Those prickly spikes help protect the plant from anything that wants to eat them. 

Those spikes “could be used to out-compete other plants” for territory, said Przelomska, who also called water lilies a “charismatic species.”

Natalia Przelomska said the flowers of the water lily only bloom for about 2 days. (RBG Kew)

“It’s not a very nice thing to grow next to, so these water lilies can really dominate their environment.”

Przelomska and her team published their findings this week in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.

The water lily‘s allure

Sean Graham, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s botany department, said giant water lilies have always been of interest to people, especially during Victorian

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