NWU, Potchefstroom Campus, News: Puk grows impressive plant specie

Puk grows impressive plant specie

The Victoria water lily (Victoria cruziana), which is indigenous to tropical South America, is an impressive plant, and several attempts have been made in South Africa during the past 50 years to grow it successfully. North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus’ Botanical Garden currently is home to this remarkable plant, which flourishes as if it is growing in its original habitat.

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Martin Smit, curator of the North-West University Puk Campus’ Botanical Garden, with the impressive plant specie they are presently growing.

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  According to Martin Smit, curator of the Botanical Garden in Potchefstroom, the plant is annual, which means that it has to be grown anew from seeds each year. “It grows from a seed of the size of a pea, to a plant which can form leaves much larger than a metre in diameter. All this in one season!” Most people recognise this water lily from photos of toddlers sitting on these leaves, which is by the way possible. “This exceptional plant usually attracts huge crowds at all international gardens, but is almost unknown in South Africa.”
  He says that although the plant is already huge, especially compared to ordinary water lilies, it should become much larger during late summer. Experts at the Botanical Garden expect the plant to also start blooming soon and hope to pollinate the flowers then. Seeds will be harvested and preserved during the winter for the next growing season. “Hopefully this exceptional plant can also be exhibited in more gardens in South Africa in the future and in this way also assist in whetting people’s interest in the plant world.”
  The plant that can currently be seen at the NWU Puk Campus’ Botanical Garden is from Victoria seeds obtained from the University of Helsinki. According to Smit, the Victoria plants have formed part of this mentioned University’s collection since the early 1800s. The Puk Botanical Garden and the Manie van der Schijff Botanical Garden initially received and germinated these seeds. Unfortunately the first plant at the Garden in Potchefstroom was gobbled up by fishes in the tropical dam. The University of Pretoria obligingly donated their seedling to the NWU Puk Botanical Garden in October last year, since they did not have the suitable facilities to grow the water lily to maturity.
  The plant will most certainly arouse excitement under the green fingers in Potchefstroom. The NWU Puk Botanical Garden is open to members of the public from Mondays to Fridays, 08:00 to 16:30 and the good news is that the tropical glass house where the lily grows can also be viewed on special request.

 Published by Kiewiet Scheppel on 18 February 2011.