The second-largest single leaf of any plant in the world.
Referred to as the "Land of the Giants" by intrepid wildlife enthusiasts, Guyana boasts a whopping 15+ giant species of fauna and flora. The pristine nature of the country's ecosystems allows these "Giants" to thrive, relatively undisturbed. The Victoria Amazonica is one such
giant species and it is undoubtedlyy a sight to behold!
As the largest of the water lily Nymphaeaceae family and Guyana’s national flower, it is also known as the Amazon Water Lily, Victoria Regia Lily, and Giant Waterlily. Perhaps unsurprisingly given its name, it has the second-largest single leaf of any plant in the world but that’s not all! This plant boasts some impeccable structural characteristics.
The enormous round yellow-green leaves have a waxy surface and can grow up to three metres wide. Of course, the plant boasts sharp spines on the underside of its leaves, stems and even flowers to protect it from small animals or fish attacks. What’s even more fascinating is the web-like structure of ‘ribs’, filled with air that allows the leaves to float on the water and support up to an incredible 60k of weight!
The reproductive process of this magnificent plant is just as fascinating. As night falls, the lily’s internal temperature rises to diffuse a sweet pineapple-like fragrance as its pure white flower opens This fragrance attracts the scarab beetle, who acts as the pollinator. At dawn, the flower closes upon cooling, trapping
the beetle inside. While the beetle collects sweet nectar, it deposits the pollen, turning the plant from female to male. When the flower reopens, it has, as if by magic, been changed from white to pink. The beetle is then released, and this process continues.
Victoria Amazonica Fact File
Although beautiful above the water’s surface, this floating giant is sharp and prickly underneath. Its spikes defend it from fish in the water and can crush rival surrounding plants. ©Fotonatura
Its pea-sized seeds can be eaten when roasted.
The circumference of its round leaf is surrounded by a vertical edge, growing up to 2 inches tall.
In order to attract beetles to collect its nectar, the flower emits a scent like sweet pineapple and banana.
Each leaf is anchored by a stalk growing up to 8 metres tall.
It was given the Latin name Victoria Regia in honour of Great Britain’s Queen Victoria, and its leaves inspired architect Joseph Paxton’s design for the Crystal Palace in London. Its name was subsequently changed to Victoria Amazonica.
It grows up to 25cm every day.
As the plant grows, it swings its stalk around to make enough room!
The flower remains in bloom for up to 2-3 days before its seed sinks to the bottom and germinates.
The plant is native only to South America’s freshwater lakes and the backwaters of the Amazon basin, making it a prized ornamental plant in botanical gardens worldwide.
Where to find the Victoria Amazonica in Guyana
You can watch the breath-taking moment these flowers open by taking a sunset boat trip out on the oxbow lakes of the Rupununi River. Rewa’s Grass Pond and the ponds around Karanambu Ranch are great spots for experiencing this phenomenon. If you’re fortunate, you may even see black caiman lounging on them in the sun, or herons using them as a platform from which to fish.
Travel Better with Guyana: Guyana is working hard to conserve its vibrant wildlife and ecosystems and protect its culture and heritage. All passionate globetrotters, curious culture seekers and bold adventurers are encouraged to do all they can to leave a positive impact on the people and places you visit in Guyana. Whether you’re local or planning a trip to Guyana, consider using one of our local licensed tour operators to help maximise the likelihood that you will spot some of the nation's most iconic species.