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Victoria: Pollination

The pollination process of the giant water lily Victoria is fascinating. Their large, snow-white flowers open at twilight. As soon as the blossom opens, the plant emits a powerful scent, which ranges from fruity to resembling a chemical solvent. To make sure the scent molecules vaporize properly, Victoria increases the temperature inside the flower to almost 10 degrees higher than the surrounding air.

The target of these signals are beetles that become active at night and land on the flower in droves. Once they land, they crawl all over the lily’s stigma, fertilizing the plant with the pollen stuck to their feet and bodies. The next morning, the lily’s flower closes, and the nocturnal beetles stay safely inside. Then the stamens open inside the flower and the beetles are covered in their sticky pollen. The second night, the flower opens again. It’s no longer white and fragrant, but purple, and has no smell. The beetles fly away and seek out a new, white, unpollinated Victoria flower. Finally, the next morning, the pollinated flower closes for good and sinks below the water surface to ripen.

Our conservatory doesn’t have the specialized beetle needed to pollinate Victoria. Since we need fresh seeds every year to grow a new crop of lilies, we must pollinate the flowers by hand.

Audio file download
Victoria: Pollination (MP3, 601 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Günter Gerlach, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg

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