The mysterious behavior of Victoria flowers has stirred people’s imagination ever since this giant water lily was introduced into cultivation in the mid-nineteenth century. Native to South America, Victoria evolved into two distinct species:Victoria amazonica inhabiting the backwaters of the Amazon and its tributaries and Victoria cruziana found further south, along Río Paraguay and Río Paraná.
While the flower spreads its petals in the evening its temperature rises up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit above the ambient. This rare phenomenon facilitates the diffusion of the flower’s delightful and seductive fragrance, which guides the incoming beetles into the floral chamber and improves chances for successful pollination by keeping the insects warm and active throughout the night. In the morning, Victoria folds back its petals, closing the entrance to the floral chamber, effectively trapping the beetles inside. When the flower opens again the following evening, the most magical transformation takes place. The petals that were pure white the previous night are now variously suffused pink and purple.
The history, biology, and allure of the Victoria will be explored in my upcoming book, Victoria: The Seductress, which will be released in March of 2013. Visitors to Longwood can experience the mystery and the majesty of Victoria during a new exhibit produced by Longwood Gardens, opening in 2013. While visiting Light this summer, please be sure to spend some time in our Waterlily Garden, which reaches peak bloom in September, and enjoy the seduction of the Victoriafor yourself.