Victoria's History
By Kit Knotts - Click images to enlarge


Discovery of Victoria for the botanical world was made by Bohemian botanist and naturalist Tadeáš Haenke in 1801. Sent to Bolivia by the Spanish government to investigate the flora there, Haenke is said to have first seen Victoria on the river Mamore', one of the tributaries of the Amazon. He died in Cochabamba (today's Bolivia) without recording his discovery.

French medical doctor turned botanist Aime Bonpland, who had previously travelled in South America with German naturalist and adventurer Alexander von Humboldt, saw Victoria near Corrientes, Argentina, in 1819 and, in 1825, sent seeds and a full description to France. In 1832 Eduard Poeppig found it on the Amazon and gave the first published account of it under the name Euryale amazonica, his supposition being that it belonged to the same genus as the Asian Euryale ferox.

Alcide d'Orbigny saw the plant in Corrientes in 1827 and sent specimens and drawings to France. He saw it again in Bolivia in 1833 and published accounts of it several years later. German botanist Robert Schomburgk found Victoria on the Berbice River in British Guiana in 1836 and sent specimens and figures home to Europe. It was from these, in 1837, that English botanist and horticulturist John Lindley established the genus Victoria and described the species regia in honor of Queen Victoria. (2002 - Ongoing investigation raises questions as to whether the epithet should have been regia or regina.)

Poeppig's Euryale amazonica has since been placed in the genus Victoria and V. amazonica takes precedence over V. regia or regina, due to prior publication. This is the accepted name for the more tropical Amazonian species. The less tropical species found at Corrientes was named V. cruziana by d'Orbigny in 1840, in honor of General Santa Cruz of Bolivia.

Schomburgk was the first to try to cultivate Victoria, attempting to transplant it from lakes and streams to Georgetown, British Guiana. The plants died. In 1846, Thomas Bridges sent seeds packed in a jar of wet clay to England. Of 25 received at Kew Garden, three germinated, grew well as seedlings until winter when they perished. In 1848 dry seeds and rhizomes were sent to England but the rhizomes rotted and the seeds didn't germinate. In 1849, 35 live plants were taken to England but they all died.

Two English physicians, Rodie and Luckie, sent seeds to Kew in bottles of fresh water. These arrived in February of 1849. From them, the first plant flowered November 8, 1849 in a specially built greenhouse at the Duke of Devonshire's estate at Chatsworth. One of these earliest flowers was cut and presented to Queen Victoria.

Joseph Paxton, the Duke's chief gardener, was so inspired by the structure of the leaf of Victoria that he incorporated it into an architectural design for a conservatory. This design was used in the construction of the Crystal Palace for the Great Industrial Exhibition of 1851 in London.For this and other accomplishments, Paxton received the honor of Knighthood.

In the year after that the first plant flowered, two others bloomed in England, one at Syon House and the other at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. The Victoria at Kew was under the care of James Gurney, who would later become superintendent of Tower Grove Park in St. Louis, Missouri. He was present when Queen Victoria, accompanied by the French president (later Napoleon III), came to view the first flowering.

Seeds obtained from these plants were distributed throughout Europe, Asia and America. Eduard Ortgies, who actually grew the first plant for Paxton, took a seedling to his new employer, nurseryman Louis Van Houtte in Belgium. In a glass house constructed especially for it, the Victoria flowered in September of 1850, the first on the Continent.

Thomas Meehan flowered the first plant in the United States in 1851 in the garden of Caleb Cope, Springbrook, Pennsylvania. In 1852 John F. Allen of Salem, Massachussetts, grew a plant from Cope's seeds. This plant grew through four summers and produced over 200 flowers.

Edward Rand sent seeds from Para, Brazil, to Edmund Sturtevant in Bordentown, New Jersey. The resulting plants flowered in 1886 and were slightly different from those flowered before. They were called V. regia var. Randii and were said to have taller, wavier rims than the known form of V. regia. They have been lost in cultivation and have not been rediscovered in the wild.

In 1894 William Tricker received seeds from a European house purported to be the true V. regia (correctly V. amazonica). Some of those that germinated and grew to flowering age had light green leaves that cupped at an early age. This different Victoria was "distinguished provisionally as 'Tricker's variety' " by William Tricker. Further investigation by Tricker and Henry S. Conard revealed that the stock came from Corrientes, Argentina, and was V. cruziana d'Orbigny.

It has been written that the form of Victoria amazonica introduced from British Guiana had leaves that were nearly flat until it achieved considerable size when it made a low rim. Others have moderately low rims where V. cruziana has high rims. The two could possibly grade together in Matta Grosso, Brazil.

Until recently, the largest Victoria that we found reported was grown in 1891 at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. under the care of George W. Oliver. It measured 90 inches in diameter and the plant had a spread of 47 feet. In 2006, the Victorias of La Rinconada, near Santa Cruz, Bolivia, set the world record at 106.3" (2.70 m).

In historical references and sometimes modern-day usage, Victoria regia and Victoria amazonica are terms used inaccurately in place of the stand-alone genus name Victoria. This can lead to confusion, especially among growers, viewers (and web site builders!) when the plant is the other species or one of the six cultivars. (See Victoria Identification.)


Bailey, L.H. The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. 1914. The MacMillan Co., New York.

Bisset, Peter. The Book of Water Gardening. 1905. A.T. De La Mare, New York.

Conard, Henry S. and Henri Hus. Water-lilies and How To Grow Them. 1914. Doubleday, Page & Company, Garden City, New York.

Pring, George. Missouri Botanical Garden Bulletin. Vol. 37(3):85-88, 1949.

Ribero, Tonchi. The Largest Victoria Pads Ever Recorded!

Tricker, William. The Water Garden, 1897. A. T. De La Mare, New York

-------. Eduard Ortgies. Gartenflora, p. 225-229, 1894.

by John Fisk Allen, with illustrations by William Sharp 1854
For shorter download Page 1 | Page 2 | Plates

 Historical Articles provided by Mike Stephenson

 Victoria Regia
The Gardeners' Chronicle 1850

The Victoria Regia - Historical Reminiscences
Wisconsin State Horticultural Society 1885 

 Plant Notes. The Victoria Regia
Garden and Forest 1888

 Eduard Ortgies - German - English

Antique Illustrations

Off-site Historical Articles of Special Interest

 Crystal Palaces For Plants

 Joseph Paxton's Water Lily

Within The Victoria Section . . .

 Introduction to Victoria

 Victoria's History

 Index to

Image Galleries

Identification of Varieties


 Gardens That Display Victoria



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