Ivan Nozaic, Queensland, Australia,
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.*
Table of Contents
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
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
* The north of Madagascar has recently been devastated by
category 5 Cyclone Ivan. The cyclone crossed the coast near Tampolo.