1998 Our Adventure With Victoria

Vic Shrinks
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As we observed the interesting, varying and sometimes odd behavior of our Victoria plants, we sometimes felt like psychoanalysts in an aquatic funny farm. "Does the plant do this?" "Why does the plant do that?" "How can we help the plant to. . .?"

During the main part of the season, buds that reached the surface opened that very night. We could be sure they were going to open if the thorns at the base of the sepals were out of the water and if there was slight pineapple fragrance at the tip of the bud at 3 p.m. Some buds that were half submerged early in the evening pushed up to open. In the winter, buds were at the surface 3 days before they opened, pushing up during the day and sinking back a little at night. Flowers often stayed open the third day.

Pod "behavior" was consistent plant to plant. Those successfully pollinated soon developed a "crook" in the stem holding the pod upright as they sank gradually to the bottom. The pods then rotated downward, the stems lengthening gradually through pod development. As they neared maturity, they rose to the surface for the last several days and then the stems sank abruptly to the bottom, floating the seeds right into our perforated ziplock bags. A remarkable exception to this occurred when Tropical Storm Mitch passed just to the south of us -- amazonica raised all of its pods to the surface, some even out of the water. After a few days they all returned to their expected positions.

In the main part of the season when the water was 80 to 90F, seed pods matured in an average 38 days. The earliest natural rupture from which we obtained mature though pale seeds was at 24 days. We designed several experiments, cutting pods off plants and floating them, to try to determine how much earlier than "ideal" (since the maturation time for those more northerly was far longer than ours) we could obtain seeds that seemed viable. Others can determine their "ideal" by keeping track of days to rupture under optimum conditions for them. "Ideal" minus 12 days was the earliest that we found full-sized seeds. We noted no additional development of the seeds after the pods were cut off the plant.

As the water cooled off and day length shortened (we are guessing that both factors are involved), maturation time increased. Pods collected in December from amazonica ruptured at 49 to 53 days, while pods collected in January 1999 took 61 days.

Pod rupture is sometimes signaled by what looks like foam around the bagged pod. From the first slight breaking open, it is only a matter of hours until the entire thick skin has dissolved, leaving thorns and seeds. Each seed is surrounded by an aril, the little flotation device the plant has devised to disperse the seeds, which is like soft styrofoam.

Once collected, sorted from the debris and counted, we leave the seeds and tag in a bucket of water outside to allow the their arils on them to begin decomposing. The seeds are soft at this point and need a little "cooking" (the water in the buckets gets pretty hot sitting in the sun!) to begin the hardening process. We then clean them by rubbing them around in a wire strainer, rinsing, and rubbing some more. They graduate to jars of tap water on the kitchen counter and are rinsed every few days.

We were asked if we noticed that the plants grew in any sort of pattern or direction as they make their way upward. They do! Both pads and buds grow in a rotating triangle. Some grow clockwise, and some grow counter-clockwise, with no consistency in direction by species or hemisphere of origin. We equate it with being left- or right-handed.

1998 The Adventure Begins
1998 Trash The Rule Book
Anatomy of Victoria Flowers

Our Adventure Overview | 1998 The Adventure Begins
1999 The Adventure Continues | 2000 A Very Bad Year | 2001 A Banner Year
2002 An Even Better Year | 2003 We Like It Like This | 2004 Trust
2005 Recovery | 2006 Normal? | 2007 Weird | 2008 Year of the Hare
2009 Year of the (White) Tortoise

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