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Victoria lily flowering

victoria lily

Update [2018-04-08]: After a stunning run of blooms, the Victoria lily is no longer flowering, for now anyway. We’ll keep you posted when flower buds reappear.

Last night the Victoria lily (Victoria x ‘Longwood Hybrid’) in the water feature in the Palm House began its dramatic two-day flower display. Currently there are two other flower buds showing. So you’ll likely have more chances to witness this plant’s spectacular bloom in the coming days if you miss this one.

The plant has much in common with the Conservatory’s Titan arums (Amorphophallus titanum), even though the two species are not at all closely related:

  • It’s a large plant. The cultivar we’re growing is a cross between South American natives V. cruziana and V. amazonica. The latter is the larger of the two parents, and under the right conditions it can produce pads nearly 10 feet in diameter. People often photograph small children supported by the pads to demonstrate their strength. (Obey the signage and do not try it here. It’s dangerous and you’ll injure our smaller plant.)
  • The bloom time is short. Victoria lilies open at dusk and the blooms last only about 48 hours or so.
  • The flowers use fragrance and heat to attract pollinators. The first evening, the flower is white and releases a pineapple-like scent and generates heat to attract beetles. It’s a lot more pleasant than the foul odor Titan arums use to attract pollinators in search of rotting flesh.
  • The flower goes to great lengths to assure cross-pollination. During the first evening, the flower’s female parts are ready to receive pollen the beetles might be carrying from another Victoria lily. The flower then closes, trapping the beetles inside.  During the next day, the anthers mature and start releasing pollen that the beetles carry from the flower when it opens in the evening. The flower changes to a purplish red, signaling to beetles that their pollination services are no longer needed.

View time-lapse video of a previous flowering:

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