New Species and Hybrids for the
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

by Carlos Magdalena - Click images to enlarge
English | Spanish

Nymphaea atrans
Subgenus Anecphya

This is the result of a wild seed collection from Low Lake in Australia. Despite the seeds coming from what appeared to be a changeable form of N. atrans, this seedling (the only one brought to flowering size so far) doesn't change its colour at all during its flowering cycle.

Apparently, what seems to be growing at Low Lake is a hybrid of N. atrans x N. immutabilis. In this population just a few specimens change colour and the ones that do change don't come true from seed. Quite disappointing but still a very impressive specimen.



  N. carpentariae
Subgenus Anecphya

A few forms have been raised from seed at RBG Kew from material donated by Dr. Barre Hellquist. This species is very difficult to germinate as seeds seem to have a dormancy, the mechanism of which is not widely understood yet. In a trial I have germinated several seeds under anaerobic circumstances so perhaps this is one of the parametres that triggers germination. Seeds left on their own have taken up to two years to germinate at Kew and Andre Leu had reported seeds germinating after eight years! Andre has recently donated a very precious selection of intense coloured forms. N. carpentariae will be displayed next year at Kew for everybody to enjoy.

This species also is proving a very good parent for Anecphya and intersubgeneric hybrids. A selection of N. carpentariae is the very vivid red that you can see in the photo at the right. This will be named at RBG Kew (but developed by Andre Leu) after Julia Leu. I'm realy impressed at the intensity and depth of colour of this particular form which is the product of selections made by Andre over several years to provide a plant more reliable in habit and more intense in colour. I'm very happy to confirm that he has achieved that. 

N. 'Julia Leu'
Selection of N. carpentariae
Photo by Andre Leu

N. georginae
Subgenus Anecphya

This is a very interesting species. It produces very large plants that have leaves very similar in shape to the night bloomers in the subgenus Lotos. It is extremely variable in colour and each seedling has grown to be different, white, blue, pink and blue.

This is the most “starry” shaped of all the Anecphyas I have ever seen as the petals are very narrow and long. The flowers are very interesting: they will close the first day but then, after opening the second morning, they will never close again (not at all!). It seems to cross with a wide range of species in the subgenus Brachyceras and has already produced some impressive hybrids. Seeds are totally different as they are almost perfectly spherical and very large; so are the fruits. It seems to be very reliable in cultivation and this species will be on display at RBG Kew very soon.


N. violacea globe type
Subgenus Anecphya

This is a taxon that may be separated and named as a new species. It grows in northwest Australia. It is very variable in colour when grown from seed and very beautiful in any of its forms. Not particularly large, it should be ideal for small ponds. So far it's very reliable in cultivation.

Are Australian lilies very prone to go dormant and set a tuber???? Well, this one doesn't and it doesn't to the extent that it compromises its propagation. It may form a tuber if grown from seed and pricked out into a tiny pot, and even so it may keep going. Once it starts flowering it never goes dormant. Seed germinates very well for me. Blooms have to be pollinated, which is great; and seedlings, while being minute, develop easily in RBG Kew's growing conditions. From a single seed batch donated by Barre Hellquist, I have white, white with blue tips, white with pink tips, pale blue, pale pink, and mauve forms.

This is one of my favourite Aussies. It is another excellent parent plant as it tends to produce cup shaped hybrids, of intermediate size, of variable colour, setting plenty of seeds that germinate easy. The downside is that the hybrids are like the parent in that they are difficult to send dormant (an advantage for display but a disadvantage to select and propagate a particular form).

This and other forms of N. violacea may be split into different species. DNA research shows several differences in the clade, but the presence of incongruities, complex hybrids and morphological variability makes the description of these species extremely complex. 

N. violacea
Subgenus Anecphya

This is a quite different form: it produces much larger plants; the blooms are highly and beautifully scented; it is more star shaped (however still cup shaped); and it is less variable in colour. It is self-pollinating (a downside as a display plant) and it has darker and smaller seeds than the western form. It is more difficult to cross to Brachyceras species and hybrids. It does cross to other species in the subgenus Anecphya, but the seeds are difficult to germinate when it is used as pod parent. It does set tubers, those being huge and globose.  

 N. carpentariae x
N. violacea
western type
Subgenus Anecphya

This is a very promising hybrid for several reasons. First, it is extremely variable, producing plants in blue, mauve, white, pink and even pink with blue tips. They come in different flowering habits, such as extremely long peduncles or very short, barely above the water. The flowers are intermediate in shape and very reliable; once a plant starts blooming I’ve never had one stop growing and go dormant. However, if potted in a small pot it will tuber so it can be propagated. I think it has the right size for pot culture, much smaller than a standard Anecphya, but not minute either and with the whole Anecphya allure. I'm in the process of selecting some forms to be named.

 N. immutabilis x N. micrantha
Subgenus Anecphya x Subgenus Brachyceras
An Anecphya that is viviparous? Sounds like fun! We’re not yet there, I'm afraid. This is my first intersubgeneric cross involving N. micrantha. It didn't make any viviparous pups on the leaves at all. However, this plant seems to be the most "Brachyceras looking" of the many intersubgenerics that have Anecphya as the pod parent. In all the previous hybrids I have done (or seen from other hybridizers), the flowers’ shape has always remained very much like a standard Anecphya plant.
As you can see in the pictures here, there is a big influence of the micrantha parent on the petal shape. It also has sepals like its African parent: specks on the outer sepals and pink in the inner sides. It is quite small, not likely to make a tuber, and also every single bloom made a fruit and set seed without being pollinated, so does it have cleistogamous flowers? Great? Not so much. Fruits slow down frequency of blooming and the size and heath of the plant. Plus ALL the seed seemed to be non-viable so no hope of getting an F2 generation containing viviparous Anecphya-like offspring. When it first bloomed for us, it had an incredible amount of buds developing at once ... then after being loaded with fruits the plant got weaker. If the spent flowers are cut off soon it may produce a very free flowering plant, However, it is difficult to propagate, high maintenance and “Brachyceras style”???? Not much of a point, in my opinion, as there should be plenty of starry lilies out there that would be easier and more showy, (Still beautiful but ... they all are, aren't they?!). I have micrantha crosses with other subgenus Anecphya species and fruits are developing from the reverse cross. 

N. georginae x
N. 'Yasuhiro'

I'm more than happy to report what seems to be the first plant that has an intersubgeneric hybrid as one of its parents. Kit Knotts reported several years ago that 'Yashusiro' had set seed when self-pollinated and when crossed with N. ampla; however seeds failed to germinate. I used the species N. georginae. This resulted in several seeds identical in size and shape to N. georginae, but, as you can see, growing into plants quite different in colour and shape from N. georginae. 

Interestingly, N. colorata produces different coloured stamens when crossed to the Anecphya species. So far:

N. georginae: bright red
N. carpentaria from north of Normanton: bright red
N. carpentaria from south of Normanton: orange
N. immutabilis: purple
N. violacea western form: purple
N. gigantea: orange

As seen below in 'Kew's Kabuki', N. georginae x N. colorata produces bright red anthers, but if N. georginae is back-crossed with pollen of N. 'Yasuhiro' (N. gigantea x N. colorata) it produces orange. Thus I assume that stamen colour is mainly passed through the pollen parent or so far this is what I have seen. This hybrid seems to be larger than 'Yashusiro' but smaller than 'Kew's Kabuki' and N. georginae. Several plants are in cultivation at present. I hope that it will produce more fertile plants (but I've not tried yet!) so that intersubgeneric F2's can be selected.

 N. carpentariae x N. colorata
Subgenus Anecphya x Subgenus Brachyceras

As you can see, another colour infusion on the stamens by using pollen of Nymphaea colorata on a subgenus Anecphya stigma. This time it is a beautiful orange/pink “salmon like” soft tone rather than the vivid red of N. 'Kew's Kabuki' or N. 'William Phillips'. The N. carpentariae used as pod parent is a different form than the N. 'Andre Leu' used for developing N. 'William Philips' in both colour (white) and population provenance. Still a beautiful plant and will it be fertile? We are still trying to find out, as this a very recent “arrival”! It seems to be a large and reliable plant though! 

 N. violacea western type x N. colorata
Subgenus Anecphya x Subgenus Brachyceras


Another example of what does colorata for you ... this time the stamens have gone purple. This is a beautiful plant. Small size and very neat cup and globose blooms. The stamen colour and arrangement of them makes this bloom -- in my opinion -- a true beauty. It has an inner pastel yellow tone that gives it a little bit of inner glow. This, together with the whiter sepals and the fine veining of the outer petals and sepals, creates a very soft and subtle bloom. Will it be easy to tuber? Not sure yet. Is it easy to grow? Yes indeed. Worth naming? At least to be considered, that's for sure! 

N. 'Kew's Kabuki'
N. georginae (Subgenus Anecphya)
x N. colorata (Subgenus Brachyceras)

This cultivar was reported and registered last year but it hadn't been tried as a display plant at RBG Kew. Now it has and it has lived up to expectations, to say the least. Very prolific bloomer, invariably opening every two to three days, lasting up to five days, occasionally opening two blooms at once, and guess what? Blooms look “first day” for two days. In the second day a few anthers go to the outer sides and shed pollen; there is still an opening or gap to the stigmatic disk. Quite large in spread, similar to N. immutabilis and N. gigantea but less sprawling, and blooms of +20cm (+8”) in diameter at peak season. As I write, November is here and ‘Kew’s Kabuki’ keeps rocking, while all the Brachyceras hybrids (apart of those containing N. ampla in the parentage such as 'Foxfire' and 'Carlos Magdalena') have gone flowerless and somehow semi-dormant. This is a really interesting plant and one that should be distributed for everyone to enjoy for years to come! 


 N. 'Kew's Perfect Stranger'
N. georginae (Subgenus Anecphya)
x Unknown subgenus Brachyceras

Another previously reported and registered plant but untested on display until this summer. Am I carried away with my “babies”??? Well, maybe, but I doubt it. Reason being, one tuber containing one crown was placed in a pot at the same size as any other plant in the Waterlily House. Then ... one day you walk in and go 1,2,3,4,5, 9... nine? nine blooms? ... this, I thought was quite prolific .... all of it in a plant that has around 20cm (8”) wide pads, often smaller, especially in late in the season. Then you wait for a couple of weeks and the bloom count goes up to 13 blooms all at once! When you compare it to all the other hybrids in the house and you realize that it has double, triple or quadruple the number of blooms of any other variety but has half the spread, the wonderful sentence, “That's what we want, that's what we need!” glides into your mind. Another intersubgeneric plant that has beaten most of the Brachyceras hybrids in late season performance.


 N. 'Kew's Stowaway Blues'
Subgenus Anecphya 


Andre Leu sent to Kew a selection of tubers from Australia. One of the tubers started to produce four plants at once and all of them were detached. One of them was potted up to bloom, the others were left to tuber. And then the tuber produced two more plantlets, both of them also detached. I thought ... this is a very prolific Aussie! While the tubers started to produce more plants, the potted up plant produced a bloom. To our surprise it wasn't the white species it was supposed to be but was a dark blue/mauve! We had a volunteer plant stowaway all the way from Australia.

I determined possible parents, as every trait matched one or the other, contacted Andre back, and then realized ... a seed escaped from one of Andre's crosses, floated away free, and landed in a pot where a species was growing. It sneaked up a few leaves, went dormant, set a tuber and hid there without being, noticed. When Andre emptied the pot, he sent the tubers, one of then being the “weed”.  

It soon became apparent to me that this was a very good performer. It propagated fast and prolifically; it outgrew any other Aussie in the tank; it makes fantastic blooms of an intense colour and doesn't want to go dormant. I sent it to the displays and soon it overtook all the other plants despite being placed there mid-season. During Andre’s visit to Kew in the summer, we agreed that it was worth naming. If you wonder why, here are some reasons.

With a spread of 4.5 metres (15’), pads of +70cm (+28”), peduncles that raise the flowers above the water +60cm (24”) and blooms that are +20cm (8”) of a dark blue mauve, it isn't a surprise that it commands every visitor's attention. Occasionally there is a tumult of people around it and I have seen more than four cameras being fired at it at once like if it was a celebrity. It is a very reliable one, looking absolutely tireless! It is largest on show, and its performance, unlike the British sun, hasn't decreased at all at the beginning of November. It is even challenging the Victoria for pad size and, for the first time ever, visitors point fingers at a Nymphaea before noticing that, oh yes, there is a Victoria too!

This plant also has time for subtlety: at the center of the stigmatic disk it has a very dark brown freckle that adds to the amazing beauty of its bloom. Too big for your pond? (I can hear some of you!!! ... ) Well, good news. I had another plant in a half liter (half quart) pot. I gave it a food bomb in May ... that's all. Pads are 12cm (5”); spread is 50cm (20”); it blooms continuously; bloom size is 7cm (3”). Any doubts this should be named? What else we can ask for? Different colours? We are on the case, we are on the case ...  


Special thanks to Andre Leu and Barre Hellquist for providing plant material and their expertise, helping make these new varieties possible at RBG Kew.

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