Victoria amazonica

Queen Victoria's water lily
Victoria amazonica at the Adelaide Botanic Garden, South Australia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
Order: Nymphaeales
Family: Nymphaeaceae
Genus: Victoria
Species: V. amazonica
Binomial name
Victoria amazonica
(Poepp.) J.C. Sowerby
  • Euryale amazonica Poepp 1836
  • Nymphaea victoria M.R.Schomb. ex Lindl.
  • Victoria regina R.H.Schomb. Sep 1837
  • Victoria regia Lindl. Oct 1837

Victoria amazonica is a species of flowering plant, the largest of the Nymphaeaceae family of water lilies.


The species has very large leaves, up to 3 m in diameter, that float on the water's surface on a submerged stalk, 7–8 m in length. The species was once called Victoria regia after Queen Victoria, but the name was superseded. V. amazonica is native to the shallow waters of the Amazon River basin, such as oxbow lakes and bayous. It is depicted in the Guyanese coat of arms. The flowers are white the first night they are open and become pink the second night. They are up to 40 cm in diameter, and are pollinated by beetles. This process was described in detail by Sir Ghillean Prance and Jorge Arius.[4][5]It is the largest waterlily in the world.


Illustration by Fitch, 1851

A member of the genus Victoria placed in the Nymphaeaceae family or, sometimes, in the Euryalaceae.[6] The first published description of the genus was by John Lindley in October 1837, based on specimens of this plant returned from British Guiana by Robert Schomburgk. Lindley named the genus after the newly ascended Queen Victoria, and the species Victoria regia.[1] The spelling in Schomburgk's description in Athenaeum, published the month before, was given as Victoria Regina.[2] Despite this spelling being adopted by the Botanical Society of London for their new emblem, Lindley's was the version used throughout the nineteenth century.[3][7]

An earlier account of the species, Euryale amazonica by Eduard Friedrich Poeppig, in 1832 described an affinity with Euryale ferox. A collection and description was also made by the French botanist Aimé Bonpland in 1825.[1][1][8] In 1850 James De Carle Sowerby[9] recognised Poeppig's earlier description and transferred its epithet amazonica. The new name was rejected by Lindley. The current name, Victoria amazonica, did not come into widespread use until the twentieth century.[3]


"On unbent leaf in fairy guise, Reflected in the water, Beloved, admired by hearts and eyes, Stands Annie, Paxton's daughter...": "The Gigantic Waterlily (Victoria Regia), In Flower At Chatsworth", 1849

Victoria regia, as it was named, was discovered by Tadeáš Haenke in 1801.[10] It was once the subject of rivalry between Victorian gardeners in England. Always on the look out for a spectacular new species with which to impress their peers, Victorian "Gardeners"[11] such as the Duke of Devonshire, and the Duke of Northumberland started a well-mannered competition to become the first to cultivate and bring to flower this enormous lily. In the end, the two aforementioned Dukes became the first to achieve this, Joseph Paxton (for the Duke of Devonshire) being the first in November 1849 by replicating the lily's warm swampy habitat (not easy in winter in England with only coal-fired boilers for heating), and a "Mr Ivison" the second and more constantly successful (for Northumberland) at Syon House.

The species captured the imagination of the public, and was the subject of several dedicated monographs. The botanical illustrations of cultivated specimens in Fitch and W.J. Hooker's 1851 work Victoria Regia[12] received critical acclaim in the Athenaeum, "they are accurate, and they are beautiful".[13] The Duke of Devonshire presented Queen Victoria with one of the first of these flowers, and named it in her honour. The lily, with ribbed undersurface and leaves veining "like transverse girders and supports", was Paxton's inspiration for The Crystal Palace, a building four times the size of St. Peter's in Rome.[14]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Knotts, Kit. "Victoria's History". Victoria Adventure. Knotts.
  2. 1 2 R.H.Schomb., Athenaeum 515:661. Sep 9. 1837
  3. 1 2 3 Trehane, Piers; Pagels, Walter (2001). "Victoria Regia or Victoria Regina? How A Politics Can Change A Waterlily Name". Letters. (cited at GRIN). Victoria Adventure. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
  4. Prance, Ghillean T. & Jorge R. Arius. A study of the floral biology of Victoria amazonica (Poepp.) Sowerby (Nymphaeaceae). Acta Amazonica 5 (2): 109-139. 1975.
  6. "Genus: Victoria Lindl.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 27 Jan 2005. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
  7. Opitz, Donald L. (21 June 2013). "'The sceptre of her pow'r': nymphs, nobility, and nomenclature in early Victorian science". The British Journal for the History of Science. 47 (1): 67–94. doi:10.1017/S0007087413000319.
  8. "Nymphaeaceae Victoria Lindl.". Plant Name Details. International Plant Name Index. 2005. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
  9. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist., Ser. 2, 6, 310
  10. "Sonderausstellung 2004 | BGBM". Retrieved 2016-11-02.
  11. In reality they did little or no actual gardening at all, but employed talented horticulturalists such as Joseph Paxton (for Devonshire) and the forgotten Mr Ivison (for Northumberland) to run their estates and gardens.
  12. "Victoria Regia : or, Illustrations of the Royal water-lily, in a series of figures chiefly made from specimens flowering at Syon and at Kew by Walter Fitch; with descriptions by Sir W. J. Hooker. ".
  13. Allibone, Samuel Austin (1863). A critical dictionary of English literature and British and American authors. 1. George W. Childs.
  14. H. Peter Loewer. The Evening Garden: Flowers and Fragrance from Dusk Till Dawn. Timber Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-88192-532-6. Page 130.
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