“Breaking Records: The Discovery of the World’s Largest Water Lily” np

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Did you know that the Royal Botanic Gardens in London has an enormous water lily? It’s called Victoria boliviana and its leaves can grow up to 10 feet wide! After spending 177 years in the gardens’ herbarium, researchers have recently discovered that it actually belongs to a brand new species. Amazing, right?

In a recent announcement from the gardens in Kew located in the western part of London, it has been revealed that the Victoria boliviana is the largest water lily species known to exist in the world. The leaves of this species can grow up to almost 10 feet wide when found in their natural habitat. However, the La Rinconada Gardens in Bolivia have the most giant specimen, with leaves reaching a width of up to 10.5 feet.

One of the species in the Victoria genus, the giant water lily, has a remarkable leaf that can hold up to 176 pounds without breaking.

According to a news release, Alex Monro, a taxonomist, systematist, and field botanist at Kew, expressed his excitement about identifying a new species in the genus Victoria. The discovery of V. boliviana is a significant achievement in botany, as it helps in properly identifying and documenting plant diversity. This knowledge is essential in protecting and sustainably benefiting from plant species. The new species was commonly and mistakenly identified as Victoria amazonica, one of the two previously known giant water lilies. Due to the loss of live specimens of the original species and the scarcity of biological collections of giant water lilies, there were disagreements over the number of recognized species and incorrect naming of species throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The study aimed to improve knowledge of Victoria water lilies.

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A group of experts led by Carlos Magdalena from Kew’s scientific and botanical research team, along with Lucy Smith, a botanical artist, and Natalia Przelomska, a biodiversity genomics researcher, have made a remarkable discovery. Working with partners from the National Herbarium of Bolivia, Santa Cruz de La Sierra Botanic Garden, and La Rinconada Garden, they have discovered a giant water lily species that has not been seen in over a century. To achieve this breakthrough, the team compiled all available information from historical records, horticulture, and geography and used DNA analysis to assemble a dataset of species characteristics. Kew is the only place globally where all three species of Victoria grow together, facilitating the comparison of these species in a way that would not be possible in the wild. Magdalena believes this was crucial in their discovery.

The Kew Gardens has been cultivating specimens of Victoria boliviana for 177 long years. According to a study, this species is genetically distinct from the other two but closely related to V. cruziana. The researchers believe that these two species might have separated around one million years ago. Magdalena, a botanist who had been examining internet pictures of wild Victoria waterlilies for almost two decades, suspected the existence of a third species in 2006 after seeing a photo online. After officially naming the new species, he considers it his biggest career achievement at Kew. Visitors can view the giant water lily in the Waterlily House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens.

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