A case of mistaken identity for 177 years.
Based on the amazing intuition of a waterlily specialist, a massive waterlily that has been growing at the Kew Gardens Herbarium in London, UK, for the past 177 years has now been identified as a new species. This is the first new species of enormous waterlily to be discovered in more than a century. Only two other species of enormous waterlilies of the well-known Victoria genus are currently recognized, and this new species brings the total to three.
Horticulturist Carlos Magdalena and botanical artist Lucy Smith were responsible for the finding, which was reported in Frontiers in Plant Science. After viewing images of the plant online in 2006, Magdalena felt persuaded that there was a third member of the Victoria genus.
In a statement sent to us, Magdalena stated, “For over two decades, I have been carefully examining every single image of wild Victoria waterlilies on the internet, a luxury that a botanist from the 18th, 19th, and much of the 20th century didn’t have.”
Previously, it was thought that just two specimens, including the one at Kew and the one that has been growing for 34 years at the National Herbarium of Bolivia, were Victoria amazonica. But after a protracted investigation, the team was able to establish it as a novel species.
The project’s Bolivian collaborators and the nation where the gigantic waterlily is located are both recognized in the new name for the plant. Victoria bolivia, the biggest species of gigantic waterlily in the world, is found in the aquatic environments of Llanos de Moxos. The largest leaf ever measured was in La Rinconada Gardens in Bolivia, measuring 3.2 meters wide. The leaves may grow to a maximum of 3 meters (10 feet) broad.
Since it is exceptionally difficult to obtain wild gigantic waterlily specimens, species of the Victoria genus have long been difficult to define. Additionally, there aren’t enough “type specimens,” or plant specimens that were used in the initial procedure to help designate the species. The first member of this genus, V. amazonica, was identified in 1832; however, there hasn’t been enough information to match any fresh samples to it.
The researchers combined historical documents, geographic data, horticultural data, and live specimens from throughout the world to identify this species. They also used citizen science on social media to check for pictures tagged Victoria and other enormous waterlilies.
Due of the waterlilies’ nocturnal blooming schedule, botanical artist Lucy Smith frequently visited the glasshouse at night to portray Magdalen’s misgivings about them. There, she became aware of the distinctive qualities and began illustrating them in her work.
A thorough DNA examination of V. boliviana by Oscar A. Pérez-Escobar and Natalia Przelomska from Kew revealed that it was genetically quite distinct from the two other species. Their findings imply that V. bolivia and V. cruziana are the most similar species and that their divergence occurred around a million years ago.