Victoria Amazonica: The Amazon's Giant Lily

February 25, 2013
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The giant Amazon water lily is the world’s largest water lily of the family Nymphaeaceae. Its massive leaves may exceed seven feet in diameter and visitors to the Peruvian Amazon are always greatly impressed by these absolutely amazing plants. There are a number of characteristics of this huge lily that most people are not aware of. For example, the leaves are extremely durable and the underside veins are lined with very large spines. The spines are strong enough to prevent their being food for aquatic and semi-aquatic animals like manatees and capybara. 

The flowers are also impressive and the first opening of each flower occurs at night. The new flower is brilliant white and since it opens only at night, attracts a nocturnal species of beetle - Cyclocephla casteneaea. Even more incredible, once a number of beetles have entered the flower, feasting on its rich, enticing nectar, the flower closes its petals. The beetles inside the flower are trapped for the remainder of the night. By the next night, the flower has undergone a dramatic change. Upon opening on the second night, the beetles are released, covered in pollen. Within 24 hours, the flower has now changed from white to pink. This signals to other beetles that there is no longer a food source so the beetles exit the pink flower, covered in pollen and search for a nearby flower that is white and thus cross pollination occurs. It is a remarkable symbiotic relationship that may be observed by visitors to this incredible region of the Peruvian Amazon.

And while the naturalists on International Expeditions' Amazon River cruises are highly knowledgeable about all of the flora and fauna of the Amazon, they can also provide insight into local folklore. For instance, many tribes along the river believe that Victorian Amazonica holds the spirit of a young girl who fell in love with the warrior in the moon.
 


Naturalist Greg Greer is a favorite among IE travelers, and has gained a reputation for his friendliness and good humor, along with his incomparable knowledge of natural history, photos and articles have been widely published in books and magazines, including Georgia Outdoor News, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Alabama Outdoor News, Riversedge and Southern Wildlife.