The Enigmas of
Nymphaea petersiana & Nymphaea lotus
By Kit Knotts

Nymphaea petersiana has been considered part of the Brachyceras subgenus, tropical day bloomers. It is native to southern Africa, the countries of Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Describing it under synonym N. nouchali var. petersiana in Flora of Tropical East Africa, Nymphaeaceae 11. 1989, Verdcourt writes, "Very similar to (nouchali) var. caerulea but leaves up to 30 x 30 cm., usually distinctly toothed and drying with all venation very distinctly raised and reticulate beneath. Petals usually white or very pale blue in the Flora area."

Courtesy of The General Libraries,
The University of Texas at Austin
Click to enlarge

The first enigma is that N. petersiana blooms during the day but recent molecular studies by Dr. Thomas Borsch and others show it more closely allied with the subgenera Lotos and Hydrocallis (Abstract), tropical night bloomers. This non-scientist writer can only wonder if it could be the "missing link" between day and night blooming tropicals, something hybridizers have dreamed of.

The second enigma relates to N. lotus, a night blooming tropical (subgenus Lotos), also native to Africa. Several sources report that it is day blooming in South Africa. It is hoped that new collection of both these species from the wild planned for 2003 and subsequent cultivation will shed more light on them.

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