When our Victoria cruziana blooms again. A visit to the Botanical Garden.
Same procedure as every year? Not quite. For me, it’s actually the first visit to Victoria, the giant water lily, in the Botanical Garden of Braunschweig. “Victoria cruziana,” as its Latin name goes, is Germany’s largest tropical giant water lily, and therefore a superlative. A new Victoria House was specially built for it in 2018. Perhaps this is partly why the two-day blooming of this plant attracts so many visitors to the greenhouse on Humboldtstraße every year. And of course: selfies with the white or pink blossom are very popular.
When does it bloom then?
“When will it finally bloom?” is the anxious question that many Braunschweig locals and tourists from the surrounding area ask every year. To understand this, you need to know that “our” Victoria only blooms on two days a year, to be precise, on two evenings. This summer, it does so on August 15th and 16th. During these two nights, the color of its blossom changes from white to pink. Why is that?
Victoria and her exotic lover
Our magnificent Braunschweig gem blooms white on the first night and pink on the second. But why is this the case? Well, it actually has something to do with the visit from Victoria’s lover. Who is this mysterious guest and what’s the deal with the visit? Simply put, it’s about the pollination process. On the first night, the thermogenic plant warms up its bud and releases a scent similar to that of a pineapple. With this bouquet, it attracts its lover, namely beetles, which take care of pollinating the plant. It can keep the beetles trapped in the blossom for up to 24 hours. After pollination, it opens up again on the following night. The pink color of the new blossom signals that pollination has occurred.
Gigantic floating leaves
In addition to the approximately 40 cm large blossom, the giant floating leaves of the giant water lily are the second attraction. Similar to an octopus, the blossom and its leaves are connected through stems. The leaves have a diameter of two meters, are circular, and have an upturned edge that is spiky on the outer side. The spikes serve as protection against voracious fish for the water lily.
It’s also fascinating that the gigantic leaves can carry a weight of up to 35 kilograms. This is possible due to the structure of the leaves, which have a supporting tissue, a network of veins, and air-filled gaps. A wonderful construction of nature!
The inglorious end
When we visit Victoria in her greenhouse on Wednesday, we coincidentally learn what her inglorious end looks like. In autumn, she is simply removed from her basin and unceremoniously thrown onto the compost heap. Then her royal appearance is over.
In February of the next year, seeds are placed in a water tray for pre-germination and kept warm. In a second step, the successful seedlings are placed in a heated propagation tray. At the end of April, the large basin in the Victoria House is filled with water and heated to 28 degrees Celsius. In this bathwater, the strongest Victoria plant is planted. The other cultivations are given to botanical gardens, as is the case in Magdeburg, for example.
An extraordinary visit that shows how fascinating and exciting nature is.