image001

New hybrid of Giant Waterlily being grown at Ventnor Botanic Garden

Ventnor Botanic Garden is delighted to announce an exciting, new botanic project, involving the crossing of two species of Giant Waterlily. The aim is to hybridise an un-named cultivar of Victoria amazonica with the Victoria cruziana in order to produce a new hybrid. VBG has grown the Giant Waterlily; which is an annual plant grown from seed, since 2002. However, this is the first time we are hoping to grow both the V.amazonica and V.cruziana species and hybridise them.

The seed was sown on March 3rd 2013 and so far we have one V. amazonica seedling and three V. cruziana seedlings. Our aim is for the new hybrid to possess the better characteristics of both its parent plants. These plants only flower late at night so VBG will be holding special events in the Tropical House for visitors to come and see this unique plant and to enjoy its rare and beautiful flowers. More about the Giant Waterlily: The Giant Waterlily, Victoria spp has such a remarkable growth rate, it develops from a pea sized seed to a plant, with lily pads nearly 3m in diameter; within a few months, it is even able to bear the weight of a child! Each individual flower only opens twice. On the first night the flower is white in order to attract scarab beetle pollinators.

The beetles are attracted to the whiteness of the petals and the strong scent the flower produces. At this stage the flower is receptive female. Over night, the flower closes which traps the beetle inside. The flower then changes its sex, and releases pollen onto the imprisoned beetle. On the second night the flower opens again, but this time it is pink in colour. The beetle is freed from the flower and free to move onto another plant, again attracted by the white petals and strong scent. Pollination is complete and the lifecycle of the lily starts again.
Chris Kidd said, “Very few gardens are able to cultivate a single Giant Waterlily, even fewer can grow both. At VBG this year we hope to grow both and hybridise them which to my knowledge has not been done in the UK since I did it at Kew in 1994. Seed from that cross were used throughout the UK for many years, we hope to achieve that same goal here. This puts less pressure on wild stocks of the lily.”
We will be following the growth and development of the Giant Waterlily, tracking its progress through our website, Facebook and Twitter pages. We hope you will follow this exciting journey with us.