Largest undivided leaf
Quién
Victoria boliviana giant water lily, La Rinconada Ecoparque
Qué
3.2 m / 7.55 m2 dimension(s)
Dónde
Bolivia (Santa Cruz de la Sierra)
Cuándo

The largest undivided (aka simple) leaf on record is a Victoria boliviana water lily pad that spanned 3.2 m (10 ft 6 in) at its maximum diameter when measured on 3 February 2012. The border/edge of the leaf stood 17 cm (6.7 in) tall, meaning an increased diameter of 3.37 m (11 ft) if the leaf were fully flattened out. It had a surface area of approximately 7.55 m² (81.3 sq ft). The prodigious pad was grown at La Rinconada ecological park in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.


The previous record holder was a leaf from a giant taro (Alocasia macrorrhiza) from Sabah, Malaysia, found in 1966; it was 3.02 m (9 ft 11 in) long, 1.92 m (6 ft 38 in) wide, and had a surface area of 3.17 m² (34.12 sq ft).

Divided (aka compound) leaves, which comprise multiple leaflets emanating from a single petiole (the stalk by which a leaf is attached to a stem) can grow even larger. The largest leaves of any plant are those of the raffia palm (Raphia farinifera=R. ruffia) of the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean, and the Amazonian bamboo palm (R. taedigera) of South America and Africa, of which the leaf blades can measure 20 m (65 ft 7 in) long, with petioles measuring 4 m (13 ft).

The new species Victoria boliviana, now known to be the largest water lily, only came to light in 2022 in a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science on 4 July 2022. The research was a collaboration between Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK), Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Jardín Botánico Municipal de Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Jardín Botánico La Paz and La Rinconada Ecoparque (all Bolivia).

Until now, the record for largest water lily was considered to be held by Victoria amazonica, a species now known to be restricted to the Amazon river basin in northern South America. Along with V. cruziana of the Paraná River system in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, these two species were, until now, thought to represent the entire genus. However, new research into the plant’s morphology, genomics and geographical distribution confirmed the existence of a distinct third species – V. boliviana, which is, in fact, the largest of the three. A fourth potential species, currently regarded as the form V. cruziana f. mattogrossensis may also be identified with further research.

By comparison, the pads of V. amazonica and V. cruziana are estimated to grow to 2.3 m (7 ft 6.5 in) and 2.4 m (7 ft 10.5 in), respectively, with flowers up to 28 cm (11 in) and 30 cm (11.8 in). One of the largest water lily leaves recorded in cultivation before this new species came to light was a 2.6-m-wide (8-ft 6.4-in) pad on a hybrid V. amazonica x cruziana grown at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, in July 1995.