The Giant in the Water
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Biologists at Britain’s Kew Gardens have discovered a new species of giant water lily, which has been mistaken for another species for more than 170 years, Smithsonian Magazine reported.
The scientists originally presumed that the newly-found Victoria boliviana was just a larger version of the Victoria amazonica – the latter one of two known varieties of the colossal waterlilies named after British Queen Victoria in 1852.
Scientists wrote in their study the new waterlily was the largest of the three species and also the largest in the world: Mainly found in northeastern Bolivia, it measures nearly 10 feet wide and can support at least 176 pounds.
Researchers suggested that the gargantuan size may help them compete with other plants for sunlight.
Throughout the year, the plant produces a variety of blooms, which change from white to pink and are coated with stinging prickles.
The team explained that the discovery was made possible after Bolivian horticulturalists donated V. boliviana seeds to Kew Gardens in 2016. They then noticed the differences after seeing the three giant plants – the V. boliviana, V. amazonica and V. cruziana – together.
Apart from having different prickle distribution and seeds, V. boliviana is genetically distinct from the other two species and more closely resembles the V. cruziana.
While the discovery makes a fine addition to the garden, the authors noted that all three plants are under increased threat because of continuing deforestation in the Amazon – with the V. boliviana at more risk because of its small geographical range.