Used for decorative and medicinal purposes, it can only flourish under certain temperature conditions. Val Rahmeh’s location within the mountainous semicircle of Menton is therefore ideal. Its nocturnal bloom is very fragrant and its circular leaves can exceed 2 m in diameter.
Victoria is a Genus named in honour of Queen Victoria. Cruziana is named after Andrés de Santa Cruz, who funded expeditions to Bolivia which resulted in the species being discovered.
Description and flowering period
It is a water lilly with rounded leaves reaching up to 2 meters in diameter and presenting a peripheral erect rim of up to 20cm. Although the species is a perennial in its natural habitat, it is usually grown as an annual in botanical gardens. The underside of leaves is covered in tough spines and presents a network of rigid ramified venations that are a few centimetres in height and thus form numerous air pockets which allow for the leaves to remain afloat. Flowering is nocturnal. The flowers are 25 to 30cm in diameter, present many petals and last only 2 nights. On the first day, at twilight, the flowers blossoms and is pure white and physiologically female (the stigmata are receptive but the stamens do not release pollen yet). It releases a scent reminiscent of pineapple which is exacerbated by the fact that the flower generates additional heat (+10°C above air temperature, due to a thermochemical reaction). The smell attracts beetles belonging to the species Cylocephata castaneal (which may already carry pollen from another flower). The beetle finds itself trapped in the flower when it closes at dawn. When the flowers opens again on the second night, it has turned pink and is physiologically male (stamens release pollen and the stigmata are no longer receptive). The beetles which were trapped inside the flower for the day can finally fly off and visit another flower, thus pollinating it. Finally, at dawn, the flowers closes once more and sinks underwater. The fruit is a large spherical berry which is covered in spines.
It requires a large pond in full sun with minimal temperatures of 20°C.
- Medicinal: Dried leaves are used to treat respiratory infections.
Victoria cruziana belongs to the Pantanal and Iberá wetlands ecosystems (extensive wetlands of Argentina and Paraguay). The species is starting to be threatened by the current drop in water quality as well as extensive specimen collection. The other species in the Genus: Victoria amazonica is even larger – with leaves reaching up to 3 meters in diameter – and requires even warmer conditions to grow. The Victoria ‘Longwood’, which is a hybrid between the 2 species, is on the other hand quite easy to grow.
Translated by: François Saint-Hillier – MNHN