Saturday, January 18, 2014

Horticultural heist

The smallest water lily in the world, the pygmy Rwandan water lily (Nymphaea thermarum), is described as just 1 cm wide with tiny satin white flowers and a butter yellow center. It was discovered growing in only a single location in Mashyuza, in southwest Rwanda, in 1987 by German botanist Professor Eberhard Fischer, but little more than 20 years later it disappeared with the destruction of its native habitat. Royal Botanic Gardens botanist Carlos Magdalena saved the plant from extinction by painstakingly cultivating a specimen from seeds kept in storage. The delicate flower could be seen at Kew Gardens just outside London – until January 9th, that is, when someone dug it up and carried it away. Director of Horticulture Richard Barley says, "You can’t put a price on it by virtue of its rarity. One can’t go down to the local garden centre and buy another one."

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