Monday, June 27, 2011

The Victoria Lily

When Joseph Paxton on behalf of the Duke of Devonshire presented Queen Victoria with a beautiful, large and exotic water-lily, she must have been absolutely delighted! The gorgeous flower was named Victoria Regia after her - now it is known as the Victoria Amazonica. This strange tropical water-lily, which has leaves that can be up to 3 metres in diameter and extremely large flowers which can be 40 centimetres wide, must have looked incredible to Victoria. One wonders if she knew that the flowers, which only last a short time, are white on the first night and pink when they bloom for a second night.

The German scientist, Haenke, first discovered the 'Giant Water Lily' in 1801 along the Amazon River in South America. Before he reported his find, however, Sir Richard Schornburgk told the London Botanical Society about his noting of the flower in 1837 in British Guiana. The Victoria Amazonica

is Guiana's national flower.

Two English dukes took a great interest in this flower and held a competition to see who could first grow it in England. These dukes were the Duke of Devonshire and the Duke of Northumberland. Joseph Paxton, the Duke of Devonshire's landscape gardener, won the contest. He did this by creating a great conservatory and replicating the plant's warm, swampy environment. The ribbed undersurface of the plant and the veins on the leaves also inspired his design of the Crystal Palace.

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