Friday, January 25, 2013

Blue Beauty

I was greeted by a nice surprise as I arrived at the Gardens the other day - the water lily in our front pond has sent up its first bloom! I must say, the cultivar name 'Blue Beauty' is indeed appropriate. Take a look at the "time lapse" of the bloom in the photos below, which occur in pairs (one of each is a close up of the bud or flower) at approximately two-day intervals. You will notice a change in the water from my pictures of the pond in the previous blog post - we dyed it black because the algae was getting out of control and the pond looked like pea soup. This is what I expected might happen, but we wanted to try it without dye anyways. I do love the look of the black: it makes a great reflecting pond and makes for a very nice contrast of the water with the water lily leaves and flowers. You can also still see the Gambusia when they come close to the surface, which we were hoping would be the case.

Doesn't look like another leaf...

Continuing to rise higher above the water...


Stunning...and still a little ways to go - you can see the centermost part is still closed.

The water lily bloom is especially interesting because it closes up near the end of the day and re-opens in the morning. That's quite a bit of folding and unfolding for a bloom this size (about 4" across). The flowers will supposedly not open if it is too cloudy, but fortunately for us, we don't often have that problem here in the Keys.

The pollination strategy of the plant is an interesting one. In the early stages of the bloom, the flower's female parts are receptive and a good amount of nectar is produced over these parts. Insects are attracted to the nectar, which they will fall into by design if they find it. Any pollen collected by these insects from other flowers sticks to the nectar when they fall into it and is directed to the female parts, resulting in pollination if the right pollen is present. In the later stages of bloom, pollen is produced by the flower instead of nectar, and the flower is no longer receptive to pollen. This separation ensures that the flower is pollinated with pollen from a different plant - clever, right?

Every part of the plant has been recorded as edible in some capacity, although a couple accounts I came across of effects after eating them would make me cautious of making a salad of the plant. The plant's roots have quite a few medicinal attributes, many of which were originally discovered by Native Americans and are now being investigated by modern medical science. Be sure to take a tour with me on your next visit to the Keys to learn more about this plant and many of the other fascinating and beautiful specimens we have here at The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort!

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

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