Guyana is officially called the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. It is located in northern South America, bordered by Brazil to the south, Suriname to the east, Venezuela to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. It has an area of 83,000 square miles with a population of 795 thousand people. Maybe you didn’t know that Guyana is an indigenous word that means “Land of Many Waters.” And with such a name, what do you think the national flower might be? The flower of an aquatic plant, of course! The national flower of Guyana is the giant water lily.
Geography and Climate of Guyana
In Guyana, the landscape consists mainly of low-lying coastal plains gradually rising into mountains in the interior regions. Along Guyana’s coast are numerous rivers fed by rainforest runoff from higher elevations inland. There is also a long chain of hills known as the Acarai Mountains, which lines much of Guyana’s border with Venezuela.
Concerning climate, temperatures in Guyana tend to be hot year-round, while humidity levels vary throughout the mountains and valleys, so the vegetation is primarily tropical. In fact, the country is covered in beautiful coconut and oil palm trees. In addition, there are vast expanses of native grasses, like palm sedges growing near the coast. Native plants include mahogany, balsa trees, and medicinal herbs like aloe vera and lemongrass. Beacuse of the aboundance of water, there are also aquatic plants like water hyacinths, lotuses, and… the giant water lily.
National Flower of Guyana: the Giant Water Lily
The giant water lily, scientifically known as Victoria amazonica, is the national flower of Guyana. This beautiful aquatic plant is native to South America and grows wild throughout the Amazon River basin (Columbia, Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, and Peru). It is most commonly found in ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers. Giant water lilies were discovered in the Berbice region in Guyana. That is why, at the time of Guyana’s independence in 1966, the Victoria Amazonica was designated as the country’s national flower and is featured on the Coat of Arms. Its impressive beauty and uniqueness were the source of inspiration for the Crystal Palace in London.
The Victoria amazonica is a plant with many names! The most common names are “Victoria regia lily,” “Amazon water lily,” and “giant water lily.” Less common names include “royal water lily,” “Victoria lily,” “jacana,” and “nanpé.”
What is a Giant Water Lily?
The giant water lily is an aquatic plant with an underwater rhizome, a stalk that grows upward, and leaves that float on the water’s surface. It flowers at night, each lasting a few days, but the plant continues to produce new flowers for the growing season. The flowers are white and turn pink or light purple over time. The flowers have a sweet fruity scent that some people describe as pineapple-like and others as banana-like. The giant water lily is a perennial plant that comes back year after year. These particular lilies have above-ground leaves that grow as large as 10 feet in diameter. The leaves are green with yellow striations on top and reddish and prickly on the underside. The prickles underneath prevent aquatic animals from snacking on the leaves.
Where To See Giant Water Lilies
You can view the incredible leaves and flowers of the giant water lily at Rewa’s Grass Pond and Karanambu Ranch in the Rupununi. If you go to Kaieteur Falls at sunset and you are fortunate, you may even see one in bloom. However, you don’t necessarily have to travel to Guyana to see giant lilies. Many conservatories around the world have giant water lilies on display, including the Kew Botanical Gardens, the National Herbarium of Bolivia, the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, the Santa Cruz de La Sierra Botanic Gardens, and London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, among others.
How to Grow Giant Water Lilies
The giant water lily is a common ornamental plant in home gardens and ponds, where it provides an attractive display of large green leaves with vibrant pink and white flowers. Like most aquatic plants, giant lilies are easy to grow. To keep your giant water lily healthy, plant the seeds in a container of loamy soil and then place it in warm water. Ensure the water is between 12-36 inches deep and the temperature stays at 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use an underwater heater if you do not live in a tropical area. These plants are naturally hardy to USDA zones 10-11. Bring the container indoors before the first frost if you live outside of these zones. As these plants grow and mature, make sure to remove spent or damaged leaves as needed.
How Are Giant Water Lilies Beneficial?
Giant water lilies provide several benefits to the environment. Their leaves help keep the water clean by shading it so algae cannot grow. In addition, the plant’s root system helps reduce soil erosion, while its stems act as barriers against flooding.
Moreover, lily pads create habitats for various aquatic creatures such as fish, frogs, crustaceans, and snails. They are important to a particular species of bird called jacana or “the lily trotter,” which walks on their expansive leaves to hunt for insects. And don’t forget the scarab beetle, a forever friend to this beautiful plant. In fact, scarab beetles go inside the flowers to collect nectar, attracted by their sweet smell. Sometimes they stuff themselves so much that they cannot crawl back out until the next day! Giant water lilies and scarab beetles have a symbiotic relationship. The plant relies on the beetle to spread pollen from flower to flower, and the beetle relies on the plant to provide rich starchy tissues and nectar for dessert.
Not only does the plant bring beauty to a garden, but its seeds can also be roasted and eaten as a snack. Roasted water lily seeds have a nutty flavor and are often used in place of popcorn. The root can also be boiled until tender, then mashed into a paste that can be used as a condiment.
Other Native Flowers of Guyana
Guyana is home to an abundance of native wildflowers. Some of the most notable include fire bush, red torch ginger, and bird-of-paradise. Other popular varieties are canna lily, yellow elderberry, starfruit bush, and bleeding heart vine. Many types of orchids grow in Guyana, such as reed orchids and mother-of-pearl orchids. These flowers, and many others, can be found throughout the country and create a stunning display for flower lovers visiting this beautiful part of South America!
- The Flag of Guyana: History, Meaning, and Symbolism
- How Long is the Amazon River?
- Water Lily vs. Lotus: What Are the Differences?
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Gonzalo de Miceu/Shutterstock.com
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