The Lily House
At the centre of this house is the tropical water lily pond. It dates from 1851 and was built so that the botanic garden might grow the giant amazon waterlily Victoria amazonica. We now grow the slightly smaller, more manageable species Victoria cruziana, although an individual leaf still reaches more than a meter in diameter.
Growing in the pond is the beautiful, day blooming Nymphaea x daubenyana. This pale blue hybrid water lily arose here in 1874. It was named in honour of Professor Daubeny, Keeper of the Botanic Garden from 1834 to 1867.
All the plants growing in the pond are adapted well to this watery environment. The water lilies have hollow stems helping the leaves and flowers to stay afloat. The plant Hygroryza aristata comes complete with inbuilt flotation devices. The leaf sheaths are inflated, acting as armbands or water wings for the rest of the plant.
The leaves of the sacred lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, have highly water repellent surfaces. The supporting stems are also hollow. As they are repelled from the leaves, water particles resemble drops of mercury.
At the margins of the pond is the plant that feeds more people on the planet than any other food. Rice. There are as many as 120,000 varieties of cultivated rice providing an annual global harvest of more than 520 million metric tons. Rice is the subject of much research and was the first plant to have its DNA fully mapped.
Bananas are grown in the jungle surrounding the pond and the Lily House is also home to a large collection of bromeliads. We also cultivate two important collections for teaching purposes, one of orchids and the other representatives of the Araceae family.
In spring the jade vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys, produces a cascade of astonishing turquoise blooms by the hundred. These racemes of large and robust flowers form a curtain through which visitors can pass. This tropical climber from the Philippines is pollinated by bats, which receive nectar from the flowers as a reward for their efforts.