Ivan Nozaic, Queensland, Australia, Discovers
Nymphaea minuta

Click images to enlarge

In 1999 I was on a palm expedition to Madagascar, accompanied by a fellow member of the North Queensland Palm Society and a botanist from the Service Botanique de Tsimbazaza in Antananarivo. July 1 we visited a small coastal forest reserve at Tampolo about 20 km (12.4 miles) north of the town of Fenoarivo-Atsinanana on the east coast. Approximately 1 km (.6 mile) along the sandy track that begins at the ranger's office, we came to a swampy area. Interested in water plants I decided to look around whilst the others, focused on palms, moved on. To the right of the track I noticed a shallow depression about 3 m (9 ') across that was completely covered with small waterlily leaves. Near the far edge, close together, were two very small pink flowers. Not only were they the smallest waterlily flowers I had ever seen, the whole area was in deep shade! 


This is what I scribbled hurriedly in my notebook at the time:

"Thu 1 July 1999. Tampolo coastal forest. Very small waterlily flowering in deep shade. Flower pink 20 mm (.8 ") across 2 cm (.8 ") above water in typical tropical nymphea fashion. Leaves green approx 5 cm (2 ") across. Water clear, tea coloured, average 10 cm (4 ") deep probably only slightly acidic due to neutralizing effect of coral sand. Fruit, about to burst, full of tiny black seeds…"


In my excitement and rush (to catch up with the others) I forgot to count the petals which were few and pointy. 
Later a check at the herbarium in Tsimbazaza revealed no mention of a small waterlily. Of the 12 seeds I brought back 3 germinated. I grew them in shallow containers in full shade to duplicate as far as possible the same conditions that I found them growing in. Natural substrate and no application of fertilizer produced plants identical to the wild specimens. During one of his visits, I gave Walter Pagels a plant for taxonomic investigation. The rest is history.  


Ivan Nozaic and Walter Pagels
Nan Bailey Photo

In November 2003 I revisited the site hoping to get some pictures. The area had changed greatly, probably due to a recent cyclone. A gap in the forest canopy, above where the depression was, had resulted in knee high vegetation. I could not find any lilies. However, about 50 km (30 miles) to the south, near the town of Mahavelona, I found a similar lily, with white flowers, growing in full sun in a shallow pool by the side of a dirt track. I am growing this lily successfully. Could it be white minuta?

I do not know how widespread these lilies are in Madagascar. I have not noticed them elsewhere from the two described locations, but this does not mean anything as the place is so vast and access off the beaten track is so difficult. There is also plenty of water. Next time I go there I'll have a further look. After all you never know what you'll find in Madagascar.*


As far as the "Aussie Nymphaea nouchali" is concerned, I refer to it as the Cairns Airport Lily until a thorough taxonomic study determines its identity. I was working at the Cairns International Airport surveying swampland for airport expansion when I noticed a small blue lily growing in the fresh water areas (Cairns Airport is built on reclaimed mangroves). A colleague of mine at the time John Stevenson (newly converted to waterlilies) and I gave some plants to Walter Pagels during his first visit to Cairns in the 1980s.


N. nouchali at Cairns Airport
Barre Hellquist Photo

There are now no freshwater swamps on Cairns Airport, the areas having been filled in for airport expansions and to mitigate bird strike hazards. The only remaining area near the airport, to my knowledge, where this lily is found is in a ditch along the highway (also constructed on reclaimed land) that follows the airport boundary. Nan Bailey tells me that she has found it elsewhere.

* The north of Madagascar has recently been devastated by category 5 Cyclone Ivan. The cyclone crossed the coast near Tampolo.

The Miniature Tropicals
Introduction & Index
Articles by
Ivan Nozaic | Andre Leu | Carlos Magdalena | Walter Pagels

John Wiersema | Barre Hellquist | Nan Bailey | David Curtright
New Miniature Hybrids by
Carlos Magdalena | Rich Sacher

WGI ONLINE Journal Table of Contents

Water Gardeners International
Home | Join WGI | Members' Exclusive | Gateway to Water Gardening