Last week produced the first bloom of the season on the giant Victoria water lily at Botanica. A little later than usual but, worth waiting for. Historically, the species was discovered in the Amazon river basin in the early 1800's. Mature plants have pads (leaves) that can reach 10' in diameter and flowers that can be 18" across. You will not see any that large at Botanica but, they will still look impressive floating among the standard lilies. The plant has some interesting features: flowers are produced one at a time; each flower only last a couple of days and are only open at night; the bottom of the leaf pads are covered in thorns to prevent fish from feeding on them; air trapped in spaces within the leaves make them so buoyant that large mature pads can support the weight of a small child.
The flowering cycle is quite unique. On the first night, the flower bud opens pure white as a female, emitting a pineapple fragrance to attract pollinating scarab beetles (which don't exist here). By sunrise, the flower is closing back up for the day. When the flower opens on the second night, the color has changed to pink and it is now a male flower full of pollen to be dispersed to other first-night flowers. By the next morning, the flower has withered and disappears beneath the surface of the water.
It can be a challenge to observe the Victoria water lily in bloom since the flowers are only open at night and each plant produces only one flower every few days. Your best chance is to visit on a cloudy morning which delays the closing of the flower. This flower was still open at 10:30 a.m. due to persistent clouds that morning. I was unable to make it back the next day to see the pink phase.
Thank you Thane, like Tim said I learned something. I never thought about the flower only the giant pad. Be sure one gets planted next to the edge now so I don't get in trouble swimming out to smell the pineapple.
Great photos TR - love the reflection of the weeping willow tree! You are a true horticulturist, a life-long learn and so great to be a volunteer with you at Botanica - everyone in Wichita that loves beauty should be a member of Botanica. I didn't know all of that about the victoria water lily flowers.
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