A New Species of Absolutely Enormous Waterlily Has Been Hiding in Plain Sight

A New Species of Absolutely Enormous Waterlily Has Been Hiding in Plain Sight ...

After it was initially confused for another, experts at London's Kew Gardens on Monday said they have discovered the first new giant waterlily species since the mid-19th century.

The new species' species had remained hidden in the Bolivian botanical garden for 177 years, and in the National Herbarium for 34 years.

It was assumed that they were from the Victoria amazonica, one of the two known giant waterlilies whose genus was named after Queen Victoria in 1852.

Experts at Kew worked with a team from the Latin American country to establish that they were indeed a third variety.

V. boliviana in the wild in Bolivia (Carlos Magdalena RBG Kew)

Victoria boliviana, the world's largest giant waterlily, is not only the newest species in the wild, but also the largest in terms of leaves.

A paper in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, published on Monday, summarizes the years of detective work.

Santa Cruz de La Sierra Botanic Garden and La Rinconada Gardens in Bolivia donated seeds from the third major waterlily species.

Lucy Smith, a botanist, said she and her plants had been growing unlabeled in a glasshouse at Kew for the last four years.

Lucy Smith shows V. boliviana at Kew's Princess of Wales Conservatory's first night flower.

"A few people have asked why does this one look so different from the others?" she told AFP. But we've had to clarify, we think it's similar to this or similar to that.

"So in fact, we've had this wonderful secret hiding in plain sight all this time."

Carlos Magdalena, a research horticulturist who specializes in conserving plant species that are nearing extinction, described the plant as "one of the world's botanical wonders."

According to Magdalena, around 2,000 new plant species are identified every year, but he added: "What I think is quite unusual is a plant (this) size with a high level of fame that will be discovered in the year 2022."

"It's quite unusual. It also underscores how many things may be out there.It really highlights how little we learn about our natural world in the end."

Carlos Magdalena and Lucy Smith observe the underside of a massive waterlily pad. ( RBG Kew)

At night, giant waterlilies bloom and change from white to pink.

V. boliviana is named in honor of the Bolivian partners on the expedition and the plant's natural ecosystem.

All three species of the Victoria genus V.amazonica, V.cruziana, and now V.boliviana can be seen side by side at Kew.

Agence France-Presse

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