Photo: the World’s largest lily pad
Amazon water lilies in Colombia. More photos of Queen Victoria water lilies in Colombia
The Queen Victoria water lily (Victoria amazonica), named in honor of Britain’s Queen Victoria, is native to the Amazon River basin. It is characterized by a large leaf that is up to 3 m (10 ft) in diameter, on a stalk 7–8 m (23-26 ft) in length.
The leaf of Queen Victoria water lily can support up to 70 pounds distributed across its surface, although the leaf itself is quite fragile and therefore easily torn by pointed objects.
The Amazon water lily has a remarkable pollination cycle. Giant white flowers, some the size of a plate, open at dusk with a speed readily seen. The flowers generate a strong butterscotch odor and trigger a stimulus that causes the temperature of the central blossom to rise 11¡ above that of the surroundings. The fragrance combined with the heat attracts scarab beetles, which gather at the flower’s center. As night falls the flowers close, trapping the beetles. By dawn the flowers have turned pink and the beetles are gorging themselves on the inner parts of the flower. By the late afternoon the flowers, which have turned a deep reddish purple, open and the beetles, coated in pollen, fly off to find another lily flower. In doing so, they carry the pollen of the first flower and fertilize the second.
For more about the water lily’s habitat, see Floating Meadows.