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This giant water lily is the largest in the world – and it’s a newly identified species

By on July 4, 2022 0

By Amarachi Orie, CNN

A standard nenuphar in London Royal Botanical Gardens was discovered to belong to an entirely new species, after 177 years in the gardens herbarium.

Victoria boliviana is the world’s largest known species of water lily, with leaves reaching nearly 10ft wide in the wild, according to a press release from Kew Gardens, west London. The largest specimen of the species is found in La Rinconada Gardens in Bolivia, with leaves up to 10.5 feet wide.

The leaf of the giant water lily, which belongs to one of three species of the genus Victoria, can support a weight of at least 176 pounds.

“Having these new data for Victoria and identifying a new species in the genus is an incredible achievement in botany – correctly identifying and documenting plant diversity is crucial to protecting and sustainably benefiting from it,” said Alex Monro, taxonomist, systematist and specialist. ground. botanist at Kew and lead author of the study published Monday in the journal Frontiers in plant sciencein the press release.

The newly identified species, V. boliviana, was commonly and mistakenly believed to be Victoria amazonica, one of two previously known giant water lily species, according to the study.

The loss of living specimens of the original species, along with the scarcity of biological collections of giant water lilies, resulted in disagreements over the number of recognized species and the incorrect naming of species for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. . The aim of the study was to improve knowledge about Victoria water lilies.

An international team led by Kew Scientific and Botanical Research Horticulturist Carlos Magdalena, Botanical Artist Lucy Smith and Biodiversity Genomics Researcher Natalia Przelomska, alongside partners from the National Herbarium of Bolivia, the Garden Santa Cruz de La Sierra Botanical Garden and La Rinconada Garden, made the first discovery of a giant water lily in over a century.

The team made a breakthrough by compiling all existing information from historical records, horticulture and geography, assembling a dataset on species characteristics and analyzing DNA.

Kew is the only place in the world where the three species of Victoria grow side by side, which Magdalena says allowed comparison of species in a way not possible in the wild, where they grow over large areas.

The study found that V. boliviana was genetically different from the other two species, but more closely related to V. cruziana, and that the two species could have diverged around a million years ago.

“For almost two decades I have scrutinized every picture of wild Victorian water lilies on the internet, a luxury that a botanist of the 18th, 19th and most of the 20th century did not have,” said Magdalena, who suspected that there was a third species since 2006 after seeing a photo of the plant online.

“I have learned so much in the process of officially naming this new species and it has been the greatest achievement of my 20 year career at Kew,” he said.

The giant water lily can be seen in the Waterlily House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens.

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