La Concepción's giant pond plant

The giant water lily at the La Concepción botanical gardens.
The giant water lily at the La Concepción botanical gardens. / F. SILVA
  • A species of gigantic water lily has been successfully grown at the gardens

  • The plant is a unique example of one of the biggest species of water lily in the world, the Victoria cruziana

Staff at La Concepción botanical gardens in Malaga have been celebrating their success in growing a gigantic species of water lily from seeds. This is the first Victoria cruziana water lily to have been cultivated outside a greenhouse.

Visitors to the gardens will be able to see this unique plant until the weather gets too cold for it to survive.

It is one of the biggest species of water lily in the world and originates from South America. Each lily pad can measure more than a metre in diameter.

The plant was grown from seed by the staff of the botanical gardens who have already received requests for seeds from scientific institutions and botanical gardens in more than 20 countries, including Germany, Austria, US and Japan.

The success is the result of experimentation, firstly in a propagator, then in an adapted aquarium and in containers inside a greenhouse, gradually acclimatising the plants to survive outside. Once acclimatised, the water lily was moved into the pond, which had been prepared with the collaboration of the Asociación de Amigos del Jardín Botánico-Histórico La Concepción (the association of supporters of the botanical garden).

To keep the lily alive, the water has to be kept at a constant 25C, similar to the Paraná and Paraguay rivers from where it originates.

According to Malaga city hall, the Victoria cruziana’s leaves can support a weight of up to 40 kilogrammes.

The flowers of species of water lily only open fully at night and last for just two days. The first night it opens the flower is white and female.

It is scented which, in its natural habitat, attracts the beetles that pollinate it. Once the beetle is inside, the flower closes its petals and traps it inside.

The second night the bloom changes to pink and male stamens start to mature.

It reopens its petals so that the insect can leave. On the third day it closes and becomes submerged. The ‘fruit’ ripens under water.

As the beetle needed for pollination does not exist in Europe, the staff of La Concepción have pollinated the flowers manually, collecting the pollen with a fine paintbrush and introducing it onto the ovary of the flower.