Don’t poke the water lily, please!

Mega-sized beauty: Giant water lilies blooming in the pond near the entrance of Penang Botanic Gardens in Kebun Bungah, Penang. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

Visitors to the gardens claim they ‘do not know’ not to disturb world’s second-largest blooms

GEORGE TOWN: The world’s second-largest water lily is one of the biggest attractions at the Penang Botanic Gardens, but its popularity has somewhat hindered its growth and development, no thanks to human interference.

The garden’s assistant engineer Mohd Norsyafik Abdul Kadir said there were always holes in the Victoria amazonica’s leaves or pads, as visitors to the gardens would prod them with sticks.

“Some visitors would toss coins onto the leaves, resulting in rot and leaving holes in them, or into the ponds near the gardens’ entrance, believing they are wishing ponds.

“When questioned, visitors would typically offer the response, ‘We did not know’. Unfortunately, this is an ongoing problem stemming from human behaviour,” he said.People, said Mohd Norsyafik, would also release tortoises or fish into the ponds, and these unwanted pets, which had most probably outgrown their tanks, would gnaw at the roots, causing the plant to die a slow death.

“The tortoises are especially hard to catch. Twice a year, we clean up the ponds and get rid of these animals, which are then relocated to places where they are not so disruptive,” he said.

The garden had no security personnel in the area of the ponds, he said, but luckily, there had been no cases of theft so far, adding that the water lily pads, which can grow up to 2m, were too large to carry away.

“We acquired the water lilies as buds, and they were carefully nurtured for about three months until they reached a specific size. At this point, the uape jacana (lily trotter’s water lily), as they are known in Brazil, would then be transferred to the ponds.

“There are two types of Victoria amazonica. The ones we have are green and red. The other type is all green and very rare.“I’ve also observed that the plant’s pads appear to be too delicate and thin to withstand the weight of a human, contrary to what is depicted in various social media videos,” said Mohd Norsyafik.

Victoria amazonica is a species of flowering plant, the second largest in the water lily family Nymphaeaceae.

Its native region is tropical South America, specifically Guyana and the Amazon Basin. It held the title of the world’s largest water lily, boasting leaves that reached up to 3m in size until the discovery of the Victoria boliviana.

In January this year, this species earned three Guinness World Record titles: the world’s largest water lily species, the world’s largest water lily leaf and the world’s largest undivided leaf.

The leaves of Victoria boliviana regularly grow to around 3m wide, with a plant in the La Rinconada Gardens in Bolivia having the largest recorded leaf at 3.2m across.

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