A gigantic aquatic plant has just been identified in London's Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. With a diameter of three metres, it can support the weight of a man. But it is above all the way in which it was discovered that is original.
A plant that had been in hiding for years
In the mid-19th century, researchers brought giant water lilies from Bolivia to England. They thought they were in possession of two species of giant aquatic plants and named them after Queen Victoria. Thus, specimens of Victoria amazonica and Victoria cruziana joined the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew. But these imported plants had been a secret for over a century.
A third water lily species
Carlos Magdalena, a horticulturist specialising in water lilies, suspected that one of the plants in the garden was different. And after DNA analysis, it turns out that not two but three species of water lilies have crossed the Atlantic.
For more than 170 years, the gigantic Victoria boliviana has been enjoying itself in a London garden, and no one had any idea of its true identity. Dr Alex Monro of the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew explains:
The lack of knowledge stems from the absence of type specimens in global plant collections. This is mainly due to the fact that giant water lilies are difficult to collect in the wild.
It can support the weight of a man
This plant stands out for its size. The leaf of a Victoria boliviana can measure three metres, and this species is said to be capable of supporting the weight of an adult. The Victoria boliviana is so large that it could be recognised by a satellite image!
Finally, in an interview with NBC News, botanist Lucy Smith said:
Perhaps we can use the largest and most charismatic plants to highlight the fact that there are many species of plants that are not yet known to science and are not understood.
This article was translated from Gentside FR.