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April 23, 2021

In the Late 19th Century, There Was a Vogue for Taking Photos of People Standing on Giant Lily Pads

Victoria amazonica lily pad is a species of flowering plant, with very large green leaves that lie flat on the water’s surface. It has a leaf that is up to 3 meters (9.8 ft) in diameter, on a stalk up to 8 meters (26 ft) in length. The genus name was given in honor of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.

The leaf of Victoria is able to support quite a large weight due to the plant’s structure, although the leaf itself is quite delicate. To counter the fragile nature of the leaf, the weight needs to be distributed across the surface through mechanical means, such as a sheet of plywood. This allows the leaf to support up to 32 kilograms (71 lb).

The first published description of the genus was by John Lindley in October 1837, based on specimens of this plant returned from British Guiana by Robert Schomburgk. Lindley named the genus after the newly ascended Queen Victoria, and the species Victoria regia. The spelling in Schomburgk’s description in Athenaeum, published the month before, was given as Victoria Regina. Despite this spelling being adopted by the Botanical Society of London for their new emblem, Lindley’s was the version used throughout the nineteenth century.


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