Victoria Water Lily

August 17, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

The Victoria water lilies are in bloom in the Heritage Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  Many buds have already opened but there are plenty of buds to come.  The Victoria water lilies are a fascinating aquatic plant with beautiful flowers and large, thorny lily pads. They are native to the river basins of South America where they bloom from spring into the fall.  They produce the second largest leaf of any plant in the world, reaching as large as 8 feet in diameter, depending on water and air temperature and water depth.  The lily pads have ribs and large thorny undersides that help protect the pad but the surface of the pad is delicate and easily punctured, which is why the Garden asks guests not to throw coins on the lily pads. At CBG the Victorias typically bloom in late July through early fall.  The day before the Victoria flowers it sends a large bud up to the surface of the water.  The Victoria only blooms at night and each bloom lasts for 48 hours.  On the first evening, the white flower (which is female) opens to lure its pollinator, a beetle, with its strong scent.  The beetle feasts on the nectar of the flower and is trapped inside when the flower closes the morning of the second day.  The flower opens again on the second night.  This time it is pink in color and male.  When it opens, the pollen-covered beetle is released to pollinate other flowers.  The flower closes and sinks into the water to allow its seeds to germinate.

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