Letters provided by Walter Pagels.
Albert de Lestang was the proprietor of Adel's
Grove Botanic Garden, North Queensland, and Robert Trickett was
a volunteer at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew. Could this waterlily
be Nymphaea carpentariae? Compare
this page to a recent
account by Nan Bailey
Nan Bailey Photo - Click to enlarge
Albert de Lestang to Robert Trickett,
1945 & 1946
The White Flowered Australian Native Waterlily
The Australian Waterlily Subgenus
Adel's Grove Botanic Garden
Your letter of 20/9/45, airmailed at 7:15 p.m. on that date,
came to hand last night, 6 weeks and one day on the way. At this
fast rate of air traveling I am afraid lily tubers would perish
on the way . . .
Now about that virgin garbed beautiful nymph you desire. Beware
of her fascinating beauty. My old friend, Mr. C. T. White, is
getting short minded from crowded work and roving about if he
failed to tell you about the white nymph living here when he
was at Kew some years back, for just before he went I sent him
specimens of the floral belle. Mr. W. D. Francis, who is the
acting boss in the absence of the chief, at that time could not
be sure my white nymph was a N. gigantea. Our water nymphs
are yet a bit mixed in names.
I will see what can be done about luring the beauty out of
her watery home or robbing her babies (seeds) to be airmailed
to you, if the fare is within my purse.
The white flowered form of N. gjgantea, as known here,
is irregular in its appearance. I have not seen it the last two
years. Will keep an eye for the white form but it grows in deep
water, here 30 ft. or more, coming to the surface on a root stalk
40 ft. or more long; the tubers beyond my reach, and the seed
will be hard to get, for water beetles devour the stamens and
ovules. The flower will have to be protected, and I do not know
how it can be done. Will try anyway.
As to the white lilies with the blue ones in the pool near
Rockland, Camooweal, I doubt their origin and how often seen.
Will try to get in touch with the blacks there and get them to
collect seeds if available; also will inquire from the roving
blacks if white lilies are seen in other parts. Here only the
blue N. gigantea occurs.
With Kindest Regards,
(signed) Albert de Lestang
Dear Mr. Trickett:
In pursuance to my letter of 10/11/45, herewith enclosed please
find seeds of Nymphaea gigantea white flowered form, or
purporting to be this plant. Seeds were collected by the bush
blacks, and seeds alone have no means to identify them. Our natives
have long lost their natural honesty and adopted the white man's
wiles. I hope that the seed will turn all right to your satisfaction.
Meantime I am keeping an eye on the garden pools for the white
beauty in the event of the blacks having tricked us. I am also
sending seeds to Mr. C. T. White, who was expected back in Brisbane
last Christmas, to have them tried in the Botanic Garden.
Soon after I wrote you the previous letter I contacted the
bush blacks and after filling their "tucker bags" [a
bag used, especially by travelers in the Australian bush, for
holding food] they readily agreed to get the seeds from shallow
pools in the hills. They are expert at collecting these for to
them they are equival of wheat to the white man. From these seeds
they make good native bread, as they do with other species we
despise. You will remember the Old History telling us the so-called
Nile Lotus (which the trade foists on the public as the Egyptian
Lotus of the tombs and monuments) was introduced in the Nile
in the Roman period to stave off famine when the grain crops
failed or all went to feed hungry Rome.
I trust you received my previous letter okay. This one ought
to have gone weeks back, but this place has been in blessful
isolation since the 10th of last month by flood rains, and it
is not known when the mail will next be through, though it has
been fine the last few days. Camooweal P.O. is 180 miles from
here; Burketown, the nearest, 140, but isolated by flooded coaster
rivers at this period, our tropical wet season . . .
With Kindest Regards,
(signed) Albert de Lestang
In May of 1946, Trickett sent about 100 seed to George Pring
at Missouri Botanical Garden, who in turn sent half to Arthur
Proebstle. Proebstle, Brazoria, Texas, had a hot spring on his
property which allowed him to grow the blue Australian waterlily
successfully. Two of these seeds germinated in July and one plant
flourished, producing its first flower in September. In October,
Pring made a special trip to Texas to see the plant. The following
is a report of this visit, as written by Mr. Pring in the Missouri
Botanical Garden Bulletin for February 1947:
"In October I made a special trip to Texas to see the
white flowered Nymphaea grown by Mr. Proebstle. Arriving
in Brazoria at 6 p.m., October 19, I lost no time in viewing
the No. 2 plant. The flower was then fully expanded and Mr. Proebstle
told me it stayed open day and night. I was sure that no waterlily
did that, but he insisted that all of the fifteen flowers had
closed the first night and remained open for the succeeding four
nights. Being as I was from Missouri I had to be shown, so with
the approach of darkness we again went out to the pools. Sure
enough, the flower was still open. I was still not convinced
and told Mr. Proebstle that it would be closed in about an hour
according to all previous records of day blooming water lilies.
At 10 o'clock, though, it was still wide open. It was hard to
realize, even though some extraordinary things are done in Texas,
and I had prophesied that it would be closed in the morning.
My host woke me at 6 o'clock in the morning, saying, "Put
on your bathrobe and come out and look at the water lily."
The flower was still open, and it never closed from October 19
to October 23."
These particular white Australians have since been lost in cultivation
but recent expeditions may provide information as to their origin.
Collecting Australian Water Lilies - Expeditions 2000-2001
by Andre Leu, Field
Collecting Australian Water Lilies - Expedition 2002
by Andre Leu, and Waterlily
Hunting in Queensland by Nan Bailey.
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