Thursday, August 24, 2006


New Australian Waterlilies

Nymphaea georginae

Three new Australian species of waterlilies from Queensland have been described by Australian expert Dr. Surrey Jacobs of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney and leading American authority Dr. Barre Hellquist of the Department of Biology, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. The designation of three new species is part of the on-going investigation into the Nymphaea of Australia which until recently have been quite poorly studied botanically and little understood horticulturally.

Understanding their cultural needs is much easier once the nature of the plants is fully understood and Drs Jacobs and Hellquist are to be lauded for their lengthy and pain-staking work in bringing order to at least some of the Australian native species, even though it is acknowledged that much more will need to be done. With the availability of DNA studies, such work can be assured of much greater fixity and reliability than hitherto, this being demonstrated clearly with the confirmation that the plants usually grown in gardens under the name ‘Albert de L’Estang’ are a variation within Nymphaea immutabilis.

The first of the new species is found growing in the area around Normanton in the north of Queensland and has been named Nymphaea carpentariae as its natural distribution appears to extend around the Gulf of Carpentaria. It is a lightly scented, day-blooming plant, which for the most part is white, but occasionally blue, and differing from N. macrosperma by its usually larger flowers, and from another new species N. georginae, by smaller seeds.

Nymphaea georginae grows naturally in the billabongs and flood channels of the upper parts of northern rivers flowing into the Lake Eyre system. It is named for the Georgina river. A day-blooming species, it produces its fragrant flowers on stout stems high above the water. The flowers are mostly white, occasionally blue and rarely pink, all of which fade with age. It can be distinguished from N. carpentariae by its larger seeds, and from N. macrosperma by the larger blossoms of blue-flowered plants which fade with age.

Nymphaea alexii also grows in northern Queensland. It is quite a distinct species with its unique cream stamens and its small ridged seeds. The white blossoms are day-flowering and scented, and held above elliptical leaves up to 15cm long and 10cm wide. It is named after Alex James Fussell, the grandson of Dr. Jacobs.
Photo: B.Hellquist

Further photographs and detailed botanical descriptions will be appearing during the next few days in the Plant Profile section of the Australian Water Gardener web-site under Tropical Waterlilies. To visit click here.

Happy Water Gardening

Philip Swindells

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