Famous for their enormous 4 to 6 foot leaves which allow them to absorb as much sunlight as possible, the Giant water lilies have attracted visitors to the Conservatory for over one hundred years.
Conservatory of Flowers fans know to keep an eye on the ponds in the Aquatic Plants Gallery every summer. The Giant water lilies (Victoria amazonica) that grow there typically reach their full size around July or August and if you’re lucky, you might see a large flower bloom.
Because these giants are short-lived at our northern latitudes, they are grown from seeds every spring by expert horticulturalists and raised in nursery ponds behind the scenes. Once large enough, they are transferred to the Aquatic Plants Gallery where they continue to grow all summer.
Their famous, enormous leaves are supported by large, spongey veins that run along the underside of each leaf. The veins, upturned edges of the leaves, and stem are all covered in long, sharp spines, thought to be a defense against herbivores like manatees and fish.
The large flowers that accompany the Giant water lilies open for just two to three days.
The large flowers that accompany the giant leaves open for just two to three days. When the flowers first open, they are white. On the first night of blooming, they produce their own heat and a sweet pineapple scent to attract scarab beetles to them. At this stage, the flower is female. On the morning of the second day, the flower closes slightly, trapping the beetles inside while it changes into a male flower and its petals turn pink! At this stage, the male flower produces pollen. As the second evening of the bloom approaches, the flower reopens its petals, allowing the newly pollen-covered beetles to fly off to pollinate a new flower.
Our horticulturalists keep a close eye on the Giant water lilies and their buds to help predict when a flower will bloom so we can share the news with our followers on social media. We invite you to follow along and experience the next bloom!