Researchers revealed a new waterlily species, Victoria boliviana, in a scientific journal Monday.
It's the largest waterlily species in the world, with leaves that reach almost 10 feet wide.
Experts previously mistook Victoria boliviana for Victoria amazonica, another waterlily species.
Researchers have discovered a new waterlily species for the first time in over a century in London's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, according to a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science on Monday.
Victoria boliviana, the official name of the new species, has been in Kew's Herbarium for 177 years and was previously believed to be Victoria amazonica, the species named after Queen Victoria in 1837. Victoria boliviana is native to Bolivia and has leaves that span 3 meters, or nearly 10 feet, wide, making it the largest waterlily species in the world.
"In the face of a fast rate of biodiversity loss, describing new species is a task of fundamental importance; we hope that our multidisciplinary framework might inspire other researchers who are seeking approaches to rapidly and robustly identify new species," Natalia Przelomska, a biodiversity genomics researcher, said in a news release.
A team led by Carlos Magdalena, Kew's scientific and botanical research horticulturist, Lucy Smith, a freelance Kew botanical artist, and Przelomska had long believed that the giant waterlily in Kew Herbarium was a different species than the other two in the genus: Victoria amazonica and Victoria cruziana.
In 2016, Magdalena germinated and grew waterlily seeds from the suspected third species, which were donated from Bolivian institutions Santa Cruz de La Sierra Botanic Garden and La Rinconada Gardens. He then compared their growth to seeds from the other two species.
"Ever since I first saw a picture of this plant online in 2006, I was convinced it was a new species. Horticulturists know their plants closely; we are often able to recognize them at a glimpse. It was clear to me that this plant did not quite fit the description of either of the known Victoria species and therefore it had to be a third," Magdalena said in a news release.
He continued: "For almost two decades, I have been scrutinizing every single picture of wild Victoria waterlilies over the internet, a luxury that a botanist from the 18th, 19th, and most of the 20th century didn't have."
Kew scientists also studied the species' DNA and detected genetic differences between Victoria boliviana, Victoria amazonica, and Victoria cruziana.
The paper's authors chose the name Victoria boliviana "in honor of Bolivian partners and the South American home of the waterlily where it grows in the aquatic ecosystems of Llanos de Moxos."
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