This new species of water lily emerged during the mid-19th century and is a giant water lily with leaves measuring up to 3 meters in diameter. According to NBC News, the world’s largest water lily was discovered after being mistaken for another species for 177 years
One of the three species in the Victoria family, the giant water lily’s leaves can withstand a weight of at more 100 kg. The recent discovery of this species was revealed by a group of scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in London, UK, in a study published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science
Specifically named Victoria boliviensis in honor of Bolivia and its South American origin, this water lily species has leaves that can grow up to 3 meters wide, weighing as much as an adult human. However, due to a lack of research on giant water lilies, it took the research team many years to confirm their presence at Kew
The first Victoria water lily species were brought to England from Bolivia and belonged to the genus named after Queen Victoria in 1852. Previously, scientists believed that this water lily species only had two subgenera, Victoria amazonica and Victoria cruziana. But now, at least one more species has been identified living in the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
By clarifying this identity confusion, experts have been able to more accurately record the diversity of water lilies, enhancing the protection and sustainable development of this plant species
Alex Monro, the head of the research team in the Americas, hopes that this study will inspire other scientists in their efforts to identify new plant species. He said, “Given the rapid pace of biodiversity loss, identifying new species is a fundamental and critically important task”
Gardener Carlos Magdalena, an international expert on water lilies and also the head of the research team, believes that there is a third surviving species. He proved his point when he received a collection of giant water lily seeds from the Santa Cruz de La Sierra Botanic Garden and La Rinconada Gardens in Bolivia in 2016.
When Magdalena planted and grew the seeds alongside the other two Victoria species at Kew, he knew he had made a unique discovery. Lucy Smith, an experienced botanical artist who draws water lily leaves, was invited to illustrate Magdalena’s different water lily species
She captured flowers that can grow larger than a soccer ball, changing between white and pink, and only blooming at night. Smith said she recognized the unique difference of the V. boliviensis species, as they have leaves that are too large, even visible on satellite images.
“I help scientists describe new plant species every year, not all of which are as large and captivating as the new Victoria species. However, every plant species in an ecosystem plays an important role,” she said.
“In fact, we can use the largest and most attractive plant species to demonstrate that there are many other species out there that have not yet been discovered and studied by science,” she shared.