A team of scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London have revealed the discovery of the world’s largest species of water lily (popularly known as the water lily) in a study published in Frontiers in Plant Science.
With leaves that can be up to three meters wide, the hitherto unknown species has been in Kew grasses all along. The first specimens of giant water lilies were first brought to the United Kingdom from Bolivia and coined as the genus Victoria in honor of Queen Victoria in 1852
The novelty was discovered after it was recognized that the species was misidentified. Scientists initially believed that there were only two subspecies of giant lilies, Victoria amazonica and Victoria cruziana.
The new species, Victoria Boliviana, was named in honor of the Bolivians on the research team – Image: clones/Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
However, it is now clear that samples of at least one other species made the journey from South America to Kew in west London, now called Bolivian Victoria, in honor of the Bolivian research team partners.
“Given the rapid rate of biodiversity loss, characterizing new species is a very important task,” said Alex Munro, head of research in the Americas, who added that he hopes his team’s research will inspire other scientists looking to identify new species.
Carlos Magdalena in Bolivia where the Bolivian Victoria is in nature – Photo: Reproduction / Kew Royal Botanic Gardens
Carlos Magdalena, a horticulturist who specializes in water lilies and leader of the research team, has suspected for years the existence of this third species. The opportunity to prove his skepticism came when he received a batch of seeds from the Bolivian institutions Jardim Botânico Santa Cruz de La Sierra and Jardins La Rinconada, in 2016.
When it has germinated and grown, compare it to other species and already notice a noticeable difference. Lucy Smith, a botanical artist who specializes in illustrations of lilies, told NBC News that the species can be seen in satellite images thanks to its unusual size.
“Every plant in an ecosystem has an important role to play. Perhaps we can use the giant and most attractive plants to highlight the fact that there are many plant species that are not yet known and not understood by science,” Smith said.
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