and last being separated (at their embouchures) by thirty-five degrees of longitude, we must conclude that this magnificent Water-Lily is, like the generality of Aquatics, a plant of wide distribution, and probably a not uncommon inhabitant of the still waters of all those great rivers which intersect the immense plains eastward of the Andes.
"I had an opportunity of experiencing the fragrance of the flowers. Those I collected for preserving in spirits were unexpande-d, but on the point of opening; on arriving at the Government House, in the town, I deposited them in my room, and returning after dark, I found to my surprise that all had blown and were exhaling a most delightful odour, which at first I compared to a rich Pine-apple, afterwards to a Melon, and then to the Chierioya; but indeed it resembled none of these fruits, and I at length came to the decision that it was a most delicious scent, unlike every other, and peculiar to the noble flower that produced it.
"The calyx is green, darker than the leaves, as is the seed-vessel.
"With the assistance of the Indians we got out of the water two entire plants, and from their appearance I should say the Victoria is decidedly perennial. Each plant had from twenty to thirty foot-stalks of flowers and leaves, in all stages; some nearly decayed to the base, others half-way down the stem, whilst others had just lost the floating portion. The same was observed in the petioles; some bearing the seed-vessel perfect, with ripe seed; others the expanded flower; and near the crown or centre of the plant was just issuing the tender flower-bud. With a knife we cut or trimmed the foot-stalks, when the trunk (if I may use the comparison) somewhat resembled a Zamia, and in length was about eighteen inches or two feet. At the base and between each foot-stalk protrudes a mass or cluster of fleshy, hollow roots, about the size of a straw, or larger, and varying in colour from brown to white, or nearly so; a succession of these roots is formed, as the new leaves are thrown out from the centre of the plant; nature having made a beautiful and wise provision for this plant, as in all her other works. The base of the trunk, or rather stem, situated in the soft mud, appears to decompose in proportion as new leaves and flowers issue from the centre, keeping the plant from elevating itself above water, which but for such an arrangement, might be the case, from the rapidity of its growth.
"From what I observed of the nature and habits of this most interesting plant, I conclude that it cannot and does not exist in any of the rivers, where the immense rise and fall, of twenty feet, would leave it dry, during many months of the year, especially in the season when there is no rain. The lagoons, being subject to little variation in the height of their waters, are the places where it grows in all its beauty and grandeur.
"The Victoria appears to delight in parts of the lake fully exposed to the sun, and I observed that it did not exist where the trees overshaded the margins.
"The vegetation surrounding the locality of the Victoria was not of that splendid character that I could have wished. It wanted those noble Palms, the Mutacú and Palma real, which so beautifully adorn the banks of the Mamoré, to have made a perfect and enchanting picture with the Victoria in the waters. The trees belonged to genera new to me and peculiar to this level part of the country. Amongst the shrubs I observed two species of Bauhinia, and a fine purple-flowered Bignonia, climbing even to the summit of the trees."
Prospect Place, Bristol. December, 16th. 1846.