Nymphaea thermarum

Nymphaea thermarum: The Enchanting Dwarf Water Lily

Nymphaea thermarum, known as the smallest water lily, holds a captivating place in the botanical world. Discovered by the esteemed German botanist Dr. Eberhard Fischer in 1987, this extraordinary species was found flourishing on the edges of a hot spring in Mashyuza, Rwanda. Fascinated by its unique characteristics, Dr. Fischer aptly named it “thermarum” to signify its thermal habitat. Unfortunately, the spring was later diverted, leading to the drying up of the once thriving location. However, thanks to the foresight of Dr. Fischer, who collected samples, the survival of Nymphaea thermarum was ensured, preserving its remarkable legacy. It is part of the Nymphaeaceae family of plants.

One of the distinguishing features of Nymphaea thermarum is its ability to grow in mud, defying the traditional water-bound habitat associated with water lilies. This adaptive trait sets it apart from other members of the Nymphaea genus, making it a botanical anomaly.

Floral Phenomenon:

The flowers of Nymphaea thermarum exhibit a captivating reproductive process. They possess both male and female phases, unfolding a delicate dance of nature. Initially, when the flower blooms, it assumes a female role, and its stigma is covered by a droplet secretion. This droplet serves as an ingenious mechanism to entice insects, which inadvertently carry pollen that adheres to the droplet. As the day progresses, the flower closes, and the droplets vanish overnight. The following day, the flower transforms into a male, releasing its own pollen to ensure successful fertilization. This intricate interplay between male and female stages ensures the continuation of this remarkable species.

Nymphaea thermarum
Nymphaea thermarum

Conservation Efforts and Cultivation of Nymphaea thermarum:

Given the rarity and vulnerability of Nymphaea thermarum, it has garnered significant attention from botanical institutions dedicated to preserving endangered species. The iconic Kew Gardens in the United Kingdom, renowned for its commitment to conservation, has successfully cultivated Nymphaea thermarum. The photographs showcasing its ethereal beauty and delicate nature are a testament to the diligent efforts of botanical experts. Additionally, cultivation of this species has been achieved in Germany.

Propagation of Nymphaea thermarum primarily relies on seed propagation. However, the germination process presents a unique challenge. These seeds require the presence of carbon dioxide (CO2) to initiate germination. This critical detail was uncovered by Carlos Magdalena of Kew Gardens, who discovered that growing the plants in pots filled with loam and surrounded by water provided the optimal conditions for successful growth.

Physical Attributes:

Nymphaea thermarum typically forms rosettes that span approximately 30cm or 12 inches in width. Its vibrant, bright green lily pads, known as leaves, are visually striking and contribute to its overall allure. The flowers of Nymphaea thermarum are characterized by their pure white petals and prominent yellow stamens, creating a captivating contrast against the verdant foliage. These exquisite flowers delicately hover a few centimeters above the plant, providing a mesmerizing display of natural elegance.

Nymphaea thermarum stands as a testament to the wonders of nature’s adaptability and the significance of conservation efforts. This enchanting dwarf water lily reminds us of the delicate balance within ecosystems and the extraordinary beauty found in even the smallest of plants.

Nymphaea thermarum
Nymphaea thermarum
Nymphaea thermarum
Nymphaea thermarum at Kew Gardens, London, UK

Also, read about other rare waterlilies at Kew Gardens: Nymphaea ‘Kew’s Stowaway Blues’

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