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  Friday, May 21, 2010
  Smallest Waterlily
- world record set by Nymphaea thermarum
  Kew Gardens, London, UK -- Carlos Magdalena, a senior horticulturalist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has cracked the enigma of growing a rare species of African waterlily, the 'thermal’ lily (Nymphaea thermarum), with pads that can be as little as 1 cm in diameter - setting the new world record for the Smallest Waterlily.

    Photo: Carlos Magdalena holding Nymphaea thermarum, the world's smallest waterlily. Image: Andrew McRobb, RBG Kew
  (enlarge photo)

   “You can grow it in a coffee mug,” said Carlos Magdalena, a senior horticulturalist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. “It makes an excellent houseplant.” The plant, whose pads measure as little as 1cm across, is less than a tenth of the size of the next smallest water lily.

   Though the Rwandan Government will have to give permission before the plant can be sold, Mr Magdalena already has a market in mind: “I think the Japanese will go crazy for it. They like lilies and they like bonsai.”

  The world's smallest waterlily, whose lily pads can be as small as 1cm across, is known as the "thermal water lily" because it was discovered growing in the muddy edges of a freshwater hot spring.

   The smallest water lily in the world was discovered in 1985 and was only known in one location in Mashyuza, Rwanda, from where it disappeared around two years ago as water feeding the spring was extracted for agriculture.

   Professor Eberhard Fischer, who discovered the species Nymphaea thermarum, transported a few specimens to Bonn Botanic Gardens, where horticulturists were able to preserve them - but they proved extremely difficult to propagate.

    Photo: The leaves of Nymphaea thermarum grow to be only a centimeter in size. Image credit: AP Photo/Alastair Grant (enlarge photo)

   A handful of seeds and seedlings were sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and were initially grown like other water lilies, submerged in water, but failed to develop.

   After a series of trials attempting to propagate the species in different conditions, expert horticulturist Carlos Magdalena finally solved the mystery of how to make them grow - with the help of the original German description of their natural habitat.

   The species was found growing in damp mud where the hot spring overflowed, and while water reached the surface of the spring at 50C, it was 25C in the area the plant had colonised. Mr Magdalena said he had tried growing the seeds at different temperatures and water hardness and "nothing seemed to work".

   The only thing he had not manipulated was the levels of CO2. "All the species of water lilies, and there are around 50, start life deep in the water, so everyone was trying that.

   "Then I came across the description - they didn't come from a river or lake - so I thought they may need the CO2 in the air."

    Down to his last batch of seeds from Bonn, he tried the different technique, and "suddenly everything came together", he said. The plants soon began to improve, and eight water lilies flourished and grew to maturity. They flowered for the first time in November 2009 and produced seeds - with dozens of seedlings now growing at Kew.

    The discovery of how to propagate the plant came just in the nick of time, as the species had not only vanished from its only known site in the wild but one of two last remaining plants in Bonn was eaten by a rat. "Whenever you have a plant and you can't propagate it you are doomed to lose it," he said.

    Luckily for the miniature water lily, the code for its propagation has been cracked and its future - at least in botanical collections - seems secured. He added: "Our immediate priority is the ex situ conservation of the species and thereafter, if the natural flow of water in its historic location can be restored, plants grown at Kew can then be reintroduced to the wild."

  The world's largest water lilies are blooming in a tropical greenhouse at London's Kew Gardens, too.

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      Related world records:
   Smallest orchid-world record set by Lou Jost  

    Biggest Mango - world record set by Sergio and Maria Socorro Bodiongan   

    Tallest rose bush-world record set by Robert Bendel

    Heaviest gooseberry-world record set by Bryan Nellist
  Tallest Cactus-world record set by SDM College of Dental Sciences 

   Largest rutabaga-world record set by Scott Robb

   Largest cabbage-world record set by Steve Hubacek       

   Largest organic cucumber-world record set by the Segee family   
   Largest potato-world record set by Khalil Semhat

   Largest rutabaga-world record set by Norm Craven   

   Longest water spinach-world record set by Li Hui

   Friday, May 21, 2010

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