Our Adventure 2001
If you look back at all the literature about Victoria, little distinction is made between the two species of Victoria except in name and range. The differences in pad color and rim height are noted but cultivation recommendations are like a blanket. To the best of our knowledge, no one has studied a single population of amazonicas in the wild through its entire life span - observations and conclusions have been made only at certain times of the year. Cruziana in the wild has been studied almost not at all.
We have had the opportunity here to observe, study and collect data about Victoria on a year round basis, each year with more species plants, and we see many differences between the two species. These include different nutritional needs, different responses to weather factors and different growth habits. We do not think that cruziana is more tolerant of cold than amazonica.
First we must look at what we know about the natural habitat of each. Amazonica grows in an equatorial environment with little variation in day length or temperature through the year. Wet and dry seasons must be the primary influence on the plants. In cultivation in a mild climate such as ours, there are no real triggers to tell the plants to quit for the year unless the plants overgrow and/or are wind damaged when their growth is slow and they can't replace pads quickly enough to sustain themselves.
Cruziana grows at more southerly latitudes with major seasonal variations in day length and temperatures. It has a definite dormant period in the wild. We believe it has some sort of clock built into its genetic makeup that determines its life span, in the wild based on cold. In cultivation, we think this imprint for dormancy can be expressed either as a reaction to cold OR in another way-- as "the job".
We are finding that our "season" is really March through January though our plants are not usually large enough to set out until May. This extended season has allowed us to "stagger" plants to observe their performance at different ages in different weather conditions. Spring amazonicas keep going, though blooming in spurts, until really bad weather in combination with overgrowth gets them. Summer and fall amazonicas do the same. On several occasions, both here and elsewhere, amazonicas have overwintered to bloom and produce seeds another season.
In past years, we have thought that the first flowers of cruziana were almost always sterile, kind of like trial balloons to see if the weather was good enough to send up viable flowers. We are changing our minds about this since several of our 2001 cruzianas made seeds from the first flowers. Though it may be at times an effect of "the clock" it may also be nutritional.
We think each adult cruziana has an imprint that it has a job to do, an evolutionary response to seasonal changes in its habitat. Based on its overall size, it must make a certain number of viable seed pods, not flowers mind you, but pods. Here plants bloom well and, at what seems to be their height, begin a decline with multiple pods on them regardless of weather conditions. When they die, several pods always remain and when they rupture, seeds are rather soft and lacking the aril that usually floats them away from the parent. Are they designed to replace the parent rather than spread the species?
An example of this need to do "the job" was a plant that we started in the spring, of breeding the same as two others that bloomed and seeded well in summer and early fall. This plant had pads of the same size but all flowers were pinched and contained stigmatic fluid. None set seed, whether selfed or crossed, even with the stigma carefully dried. It shrunk as the weather cooled but continued to flower after the others were dead. It was still blooming when the Paraguayan cruziana flowered (See "Seeds of the Century") and we were able to breed it (with no stigmatic fluid present!), twice to the Paraguayan and once to itself. The resulting seeds are sprouting as we write this. Was it waiting for an exotic foreign mate? Or hanging on to do its job? Both plants, though smallish, were healthy and warm but declined and died as their pods matured.
Why are we even concerned about this? The best reason is our innate curiosity about Victoria. The other good reason is that cruziana is one parent of the primary hybrids. Amazonica, though tricky to start, is a pretty easy adult plant if you accept that it blooms in spurty series. When it blooms it makes good flowers with good pollen, good seed pods and matures them. Cruziana shows buds and aborts them, flowers sometimes with stigmatic fluid and/or unviable pollen, dies at peak and sometimes doesn't mature all its pods. It is overall a very quirky plant. We toss these ideas about it out for discussion, certainly not as gospel, since we, better than most, know never to take anything we think we know about Victoria for granted.
Seeds of the Century | Dissection of V. amazonica
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