Investigation: the possibility of hybridization
in breeding lineages of Victoria cruziana and V. amazonica

Keith Hartley(1) and Jeremie Fant(2)
(1)Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL 60045 (2)Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, IL 60022


South America is home to a number of rare and unique species, many of which we are losing to habitat destruction. Water lilies have been referred to as one of the most beautiful flowers on earth. The largest species are found in South America and belong to the genus Victoria, so named to honor Queen Victoria. The genus comprises of two species Victoria cruziana and Victoria amazonica. The two species can be difficult to distinguish, except they are native to different areas of South America. Victoria cruziana is found in Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina, while Victoria amazonica is found in Peru, Colombia, Guyana, and Brazil. In 1961 Longwood Gardens' Patrick Nutt created the first hybrid cross with V. cruziana as the pod parent and V. amazonica as the pollen parent. The V. 'Longwood Hybrid' could survive cooler temperature and bloomed much earlier in the year; this allowed many other botanical gardens to include them in their collections. Dr. Ben Knotts and Kit Knotts are trying to produce a breeding population of both V. cruziana and V. amazonica. However, it has proven hard to determine if some of the specimens are pure lines or hybrids.

Difference in Victoria Species

Victoria cruziana and amazonica have a many similar characteristics, making them difficult to tell them apart. The younger the lily the more challenging it is to distinguish the two species. Still there are a number of characteristics which separate the two species.

Victoria cruziana 

Click section to enlarge
Pads are a bright green with tall rims
Petals have a pointed shape
Buds have no thorns and a pointed shape (Fig 1a)
Flowers are white on the first day (Fig 2a)
Flowers change to a light pink on the second day (Fig 3a) 
Victoria amazonica 
  Pads have a bronze green color with low rims
Petals have a rounded shape
Buds have thorns and a maroon color (Fig lb)
Flowers are white on the first day (Fig 2b)
Flowers change to a pink, red or maroon on the second day (Fig 3b) 


Samples were collected from a variety of sites (table 1). The DNA was extracted using Fastprep DNA kit. A Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) was done testing ISSR primers. Spermine was used to purify the DNA. Of the hundred primers tested five were selected and tested on the samples, 807, 808, 809n 840, and 861.

Results and Discussion

We screened individuals which we knew to be true species, using 100 ISSR primers. We selected five primers which gave banding patterns with clear and repeatable differences between the two species of water lilies. All individuals were scored for the present and absence of up to 15 bands, 3 per primer. When we scored the breeding lines of Victoria amazonica and V. cruziana we found no evidence of hybridization, i.e. all individuals showed banding patterns which clearly belonged to one or the other species (fig. 5). This is strong evidence that the breeding lines are true species and no hybridization has occurred in these lines.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


In order to breed these two different species of water lilies we should know if they are a pure breed or hybrid. By performing PCR we have successfully found a way to distinguish the difference between the two species. Using these ISSR primers we were able to show that breeding lines had no evidence of hybridization and did represent pure species lines. This technique could prove useful for future breeding programs.

 Adapted from a poster by Keith Hartley and Jeremie Fant and published with their permission.

Waterlilies | Lotus | Aquatic Plants | Victoria | Our Adventure With Victoria
Water Gardening | Water Gardening Friends | New This Month
Kit & Ben Knotts | Our Garden | Search The Site | Home 
Email Discussion List | Site Map