The Samaan Grove Wetland System

Wetlands Inhabitants
by Kevin Kenny - Click images to enlarge

Waterlily, Nymphaea

Trinidad and Tobago have a number of local waterlilies that can be found throughout the islands. Visiting Nariva Swamp some years ago, we were surprised to see the abundance of lilies in the area.

Local copper vessel at the entrance to Samaan Grove
We arranged for our landscaper to make a trip to Nariva where he purchased a number of plants from the local residents. The people who live and farm in the area are very poor and he was received quite warmly. No one had ever offered to pay for the plants that grew in the drains outside their houses. By the end of the day they gave him all he could carry for $30.00 US.

Night Blooming Waterlilies

White (probably Nymphaea lotus). The first time we saw this plant in bloom, it was early morning and we thought someone had thrown garbage all over the Nariva wetland. We were amazed when they turned out to be flowers. They open at night around 7:00 pm and stay open until the following morning around 10:00 am when the day starts getting hot. They like plenty of nutrients and grow to enormous size when fed with pond tabs in our wetlands. They also reproduce at a great rate. We had only one plant in Pond 6, and a year later had over twenty large specimens. These all grew naturally from seeds and now provide us with an abundant local supply.

Red (possibly a form of N. lotus). Like the white, the flower opens early in the evening and will stay open until the following morning. It grows from tuber and is easy to propagate. When my staff brought a number of large plants from Trinidad, we had a great deal of difficulty preventing them from floating up. Eventually we devised a system using bent rebar to hold the plants underwater until the roots took hold. During that time a number of them still managed to float.

To our amazement we realized that each root stock was made up of multitudes of small root balls that could be broken off from the main plant. We were able to get about 50 plants from the first large root ball which we planted at the edge of the lakes. In a few months we had massive plants with leaves measuring over 50 centimetres (20 inches) in diameter. We got this growth because we supplemented each plant with pond tabs. It was amazing to see the effectiveness of these great fertilizer tablets. Once the plants settled we decided to discontinue the use of the tablets to see how they would acclimatize in their new conditions. Not surprisingly there was a die-off in the following year. These ponds are lined with clay which has very little natural nutrient. The plants flourished in places where fresh water enters the pond, bringing with it new silt that contained nutrients.

This has proven to be one of the easiest plants to propagate by simply planting these root balls anywhere we want a lily to grow. In fact we had so many root balls we started throwing them in different parts of the lakes. Not surprisingly they established everywhere we threw them.

We call Lake 1 Red Lake because of
the number of red waterlilies that
grow on its edges. (We may have to rethink this name as it is proving
difficult to keep other lilies out
of the lake.)


Pink (possibly a form of N. lotus or a natural hybrid between the white and red). We had heard about the pink night bloomer when we first visited Nariva, but were only able to get two plants. We lost one in the last dry season when the shelf dried up. We had hoped that its root was buried deep enough for it to survive but it has not reappeared. We transplanted the surviving plant to deeper water before the end of the rainy season.


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