London. Specialists from Kew Gardens, a well-known botanical garden in west London, revealed yesterday that they discovered a new species of giant water lily, the first to be recorded since the mid-19th century.
The specimens had been in Kew Gardens for 177 years and in the Bolivian National Herbarium for 34 years before experts realized it was a new species.
At first, scientists thought it was a Victoria amazonica, one of two varieties of giant water lilies named after Queen Victoria.
But after an investigation with a team that traveled from Bolivia, British garden experts determined that it is actually a third variety.
As well as being the most recent species of giant water lily, Victoria boliviana, whose leaves can be up to three meters long, is also the largest in the world.
The results of the investigations, which took several years, are reflected in an article published yesterday in the journal Frontiers in Plant Sciences.
The seeds of this third species of giant water lily had been donated by the botanical gardens of Santa Cruz de La Sierra and La Rinconada in Bolivia.
Botanical illustrator Lucy Smith, who took part in the investigations, recounted that the plants had grown, but not been referenced, in a pond at Kew over the past four years.
“In reality we had hidden this wonderful secret in plain sight for all this time,” he told AFP.
Carlos Magdalena, a researcher specializing in the preservation of endangered plant species, described the plant as “one of the botanical wonders of the world.”
The scientists explained that about 2,000 plant species are discovered each year, but “what is not very common is that a plant of this size, with such notoriety, is discovered in 2022. This shows us that we know very little about the natural world,” he said.
Bolivian Victoria was named in honor of the team’s Bolivian specialists and the ecosystem to which it belongs.
Giant water lilies have a flower that turns from white to pink at night.
Kew Garden is the only one in the world where visitors can admire Victoria, Amazon, Cruziana and now Bolivian species.
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