First Published: 25th of August, 2021 by Patrick Carpen.
Species: V. Amazonica
The flower of Victoria Amazonica, previously called the Victoria Regia, and also known as the Giant Water Lily, is Guyana’s National Flower. Victoria Amazonica is the world’s second largest water lily with its leaves measuring a whooping 10 feet in diameter floating on the surface of the water. The stalk of the Victoria Amazonica extends as much as 26 feet (8 meters) below the surface of the water. The flower of the Victoria Amazonica, which it bears almost every week during the summer months, is also the largest flower in the world. The flower of the Victoria Amazonica stays in blossom for just two to three days – long enough to facilitate pollination.
The Victoria Amazonica, named after Queen Victoria of England, has been dubbed “the reigning queen of water lilies.”
The leaves of the Victoria Amazonica are so huge that a child can theoretically sit on top of it. However, in practice, the leaves are neither strong nor buoyant enough to sustain a child’s weight while floating on the surface of the water. For a photoshoot, some enthusiasts build a support trestle for the plant under the water before placing the child on top to create a show. On the other hand, small caimans have been sighted lulling on top of the leaves of this giant water lily.
The Victoria Amazonica was first discovered in 1801 in Bolivia, but was not officially reported until 1837 when it was discovered in Guyana, South America by Sir Richard Schomburghk. The genus was named after the 19th century Queen Victoria of England who lived between 1819 and 1901. The Latin name of the species “Amazonica” indicates the geographical area where the plant grows naturally.
The Victoria Amazonica was adopted as Guyana’s National Flower at the time of Independence in 1966 and is depicted on the Coat of Arms. Its splendid beauty and distinctiveness was the inspiration for the design of the Crystal Palace in London.
Common names of the Victoria Amazonica include: Amazon water lily, giant water lily, royal water lily, Victoria lily, Victoria d’Amazonie (French), aguape-assu, vitoria regia, forno d’agua, forno de jacana, jacana, milho da agua, nanpe, rainha dos lagoas, abatiyu, agoape, aguape, hoja de sol, iguape, irupe, mais de agua, maruru, ninfa real, plato de agua, Amazonas Wasserlilie (German).
The Victoria Amazonica is native to the Amazon Regions of Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Guyana, and occurs naturally in lakes, ponds, and the slow-flowing parts of rivers. It is particularly abundant in Yupukari Village in Central Rupununi, in Rewa Village in the North Rupununi Savannahs of Guyana, and in Berbice – the ancient county where it was first discovered.
The Victoria Amazonica can be cultivated and grown in ponds anywhere in the world where the temperature averages 30 degrees Celsius. The Victoria Amazonica cannot survive temperatures under 15 degrees Celsius but can be grown in colder climates if artificial heating is applied in a controlled environment.
The Victoria Amazonica is perennial. That means it grows all year round. During the summer months, it bears a flower which starts blooming during the evening. During the first evening, the flower of the Victoria Amazonica is white and gives off a fruity smell – a smell that attracts the beetles responsible for pollination. By noon the next day, the flower closes and the beetle is trapped inside. The plant will then start producing pollen, coating the beetle in the flower. On the second night, the flower opens again, but this time, takes on the form of an unscented pink flower. The beetle, now coated with pollen, flies out to another blooming white flower and pollinates it.
On the first day of blossom, the flower of the Victoria Amazonica is white and gives off a fruity scent which attracts the scarab beetle. During the first evening, the white flower is functionally female and is receptive to pollen brought by the beetle. However, by noon the next day, the flower closes, traps the beetle inside and becomes functionally male – coating the beetle with pollen. On the second evening, the flower opens again – this time an odorless pink, and the pollen-coated beetle flies out and goes to a newly bloomed white flower and pollinates it.
The Victoria Amazonica can grow as fast as 8 inches in one day. Floating on the water’s surface, the leaves are curved upward at the edges to a height of 5 to 15 cm to prevent water flowing to the top of its surface. At the same time, the upward curve of the edge carries one or two small slits which allows rainwater to drain off the surface. The raised edges also prevents overlapping of the leaves.
The undersides of the leaves, stems, and flower buds are covered with sharp spines which serve as a layer of protection against fish and animals. Floating on the top of the water, the leaves are supported by a web-like structure of hollow ribs which are filled with air – thus providing extra buoyancy for the leaves.