Victoria cruziana A.D.Orb.

First published in Ann. Sci. Nat., Bot., sér. 2, 13: 57 (1840)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is W. Central Brazil to NE. Argentina. It is a hydroperennial and grows primarily in the subtropical biome.


Frontiers in Plant Science

Bolivia [Argentina], Corrientes, banks of the Paraná river, Arroyo de San José, beginning of 1827, d’Orbigny s.n. (lectotype: P (P02048598∗) (designated by de Lima et al., 2021); isolectotypes: P (P02048599).
Irupé (yrupé), yacare yrupé, naanók lapotó (poncho del otany), maíz de agua, Santa Cruz Waterlily, Victoria regia.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves up 2.4 m broad, adaxial surface of lamina green, abaxial surface of lamina green or dark blue-green, radial and reticulate ribs yellow or green; leaf margins form a high rim 8–10% of leaf length, rim ± perpendicular to or slightly recurved over adaxial surface at base, flared outwards at top (sigmoid in profile), abaxial surface of rim green or tinged maroon, hairs 1–3 mm, simple, multicellular, 10–15 segmented
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary 7–10 cm diameter, outer surface covered in prickles 1–22 mm (dried), prickles abruptly tapering from c. half their length to sharp apex; hairs absent or present, where present 0.1–12 mm; inner surface of ovary with moderately concave stigmatic surface, rounded to triangular in longitudinal profile, ridged with lines corresponding with 25–38 radially arranged locules, each containing 20–25 ovules 1.5–1.8 mm (fresh)
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Tepal
Inner tepals 7–10 × 1.5–9 cm (fresh), innermost all white both in bud and during first-night anthesis, crinkled in appearance, turning pale to dark pink on second-night; outer staminodia, 6– 7 × 1–1.5 cm, thick, rigid, apiculate; stamens 4–6 × 0.5–1 cm inner staminodia > 50, 4–6 × 0.5 cm; base of lower parts of carpellary appendage flat, arising from stigmatic surface at 45 degree angle, cuneate, length of upper parts not exceeding that of lower parts At first night anthesis, inner tepals have a crinkled appearance. Outer tepals 4, 10–13 × 4–9 cm when fresh, abaxial surface green and/or tinged maroon abaxially prickles absent or present, where present up to 100 per tepal, prickles tapering abruptly at their midpoint to a sharp point, 1–10 mm (dried), distributed up to lower one third of surface, hairs absent or present, where present 0.1–1 mm
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flower at first night of anthesis: all inner tepals white, outer staminodia tipped pink; at second night anthesis, outer tepal adaxial surface pink, inner tepals pale or dark pink at base, white or pink towards apex, outer staminodia dark pink for basal two-thirds of their length, white then pink towards apex, inner staminodia pink at base Flower bud broadly ovoid, concave just before apex, up to 30 cm diameter at second- night anthesis
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds, c. up to 1000 per fruit, 7–9 × 8–10 mm, globose, raphe faintly visible, brown to black, surrounded by a mucilaginous aril.
Victoria cruziana is restricted to the Paraná river basin and tributaries, from Paraguay to Argentina, and possibly Bolivia.
Based on the maximum potential habitat of wetlands (including Esteros de Ibera National Park Wetlands) and a combination of verified herbarium collections and iNaturalist images we estimate the EOO of V. cruziana to be between 46,563 and 132,945 km2. This exceeds the threshold for a threatened category under criterion B (IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee, 2019). We calculate the AOO to be 120 km2, although an upper estimate based on the extent of the river may exceed 2,000 km2 (but not more than 3,000 km2). This would assess V. cruziana as between Endangered and Vulnerable categories. There are more than 10 locations but no information about population fragmentation. We infer a continuing decline in habitat quality due to the increasing frequency of droughts, the abstraction of water, deforestation (Caivano and Calatrava, 2021; Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales, 2021) and big hydroelectric dams. For example, Itaipu is one of the largest dams in the world (Stevaux et al., 2009) and lies within the V. cruziana range. Whilst the AOO upper estimate is close to the threshold for VU, there are more than sufficient criteria for a threatened category under criterion B, and we therefore assess V. cruziana as LC. We recommend further documentation of the distribution and size of V cruziana populations and investigations into their fluctuation through time as we believe that it may be vulnerable to an increase in the frequency and severity of droughts associated with climate change and increased sedimentation caused by the construction of large dams within its habitat (Stevaux et al., 2009).
Victoria cruziana forms the proportionately highest leaf rims of all the species, and these are always slightly recurved over the flat part of the lamina, flaring out at the top. The concavity of the outer tepals before their apex gives the bud a pinched-in appearance. Prickles are absent or occur on the outer tepal abaxial surface, but only up to one-third of their length from the base. In this species, hairs which are sometimes present on the lower outer tepal abaxial surface and ovary are the only ones large enough to see without magnification.

Kew Species Profiles

General Description

A distinctive waterlily from South America, Victoria cruziana produces enormous lily pads that lie flat on the water's surface. It has large, attractive flowers that nestle in-between the expanding lily pads.

The genus Victoria was named in honour of the UK's Queen Victoria (1819-1901). The specific epithet cruziana was given in honour of Andrés de Santa Cruz (1792-1865), President of Peru and Bolivia, who sponsored an expedition to Bolivia in which the first specimens of this species were collected.

Victoria cruziana is one of two species within the genus Victoria, the other being Victoria amazonica. These giant waterlilies attracted great attention in the UK when they were first cultivated at Kew during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Santa Cruz waterlily is native to subtropical South America, where it is found in Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia.


Overview: A rooted aquatic herb, prickly with the exception of the upper surface of leaves and most surfaces of the flowers.

Leaves: Bright green lily pads (leaf blades) up to 2 m wide, with thick rims (upturned leaf margins) up to 20 cm high, which distinguish it from its close relative Victoria amazonica .

Lily pads have a waxy surface, which helps repel water. Leaves green on both sides (underside sometimes reddish), smooth above but with abundant sharp spines beneath, which are possibly a defence against herbivorous fish and manatees. Underside of lily pad bears a network of prominent veins.

The floating leaf blade is attached to the rhizome by a long, flexible petiole (leaf stalk).

Flowers: Large, floating, creamy-white on opening, becoming light pink on the second night (after pollination). Anchored by long flower stalks arising from an underground rhizome buried in the mud of the river-bottom. Flower buds are only prickly at the base (in contrast to those of V. amazonica , which are prickly all over).

Pollination is carried out by a beetle ( Cylocephata castaneal ), which is attracted by the floral scent.

Fruits: Large, prickly, berry-like. Seeds numerous, up to 10 mm in diameter, subspherical.

Threats and conservation

Victoria cruziana requires a specific habitat (slowly moving, shallow waterways), which may be threatened by climate change and associated increase in flooding. Deforestation (removal of rainforest from areas around its habitat) is also a possible threat, as it can lead to a reduction in water quality.


Victoria cruziana is cultivated as an ornamental. It is grown under glass as an annual in temperate regions.

Waterlily seeds have been used as a food-source in Central America, and V. cruziana was once known as 'water corn' in Paraguay, because of its large seeds that were used to make flour.

World War II survival story

Kew's original plants and seeds of  Victoria cruziana  were lost during World War II, but ironically  V. cruziana  survived in the bomb-damaged conservatory at the botanical garden of the University of Helsinki.

After the war, Helsinki re-distributed material to many botanical gardens, providing a good example of the importance of sharing material among such institutions. This variety of  V. cruziana  is still the one grown in most botanical gardens around the world. It is a self-compatible clone; seeds are produced by spontaneous self-pollination.


Santa Cruz waterlily is a short-lived perennial, but at Kew it is raised as an annual, from seed planted each January.

Flowers are hand-pollinated during the summer and then sealed in a bag. This enables easy collection of the resulting seed in the autumn.

The seeds must be kept moist, preferably in water, at all times. To prevent premature germination or death, they are kept at a constant temperature of 15°C.

It is sometimes necessary to nick the seed with a scalpel to initiate germination, which usually occurs ten days later. In January, the newly germinated seed is moved into a tiny pot that is kept in water.

As the plant grows, it is moved into larger pots until it occupies a one-ton pot. Loam is used as a substrate because it does not float, and this is rich in nutrients and has the capacity to hold the fertiliser contained in the 'feed bombs' given to the plant.

This species at Kew

Victoria cruziana can be seen in Kew's Waterlily House during the summer.

It is grown in Kew's behind-the-scenes Tropical Nursery until March or April, when plants have five or six leaves, at which point some are put on display in the Waterlily House.

Kew also raises juvenile Victoria plants to donate to other institutions, which do not have the facilities to raise them from seed.

Argentina, Bolivia
Slowly moving, shallow waterways.
Not yet assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Leaves and other plant parts bear sharp spines, which can be hazardous.




Common Names

Santa Cruz Water Lily, Santa Cruz waterlily


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