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Has coronavirus shutdown played role in famous lily's first bloom in Belfast for 28 years?

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The Victoria water lily at Botanic Gardens

The Victoria water lily at Botanic Gardens

The flower in bloom

The flower in bloom

The Victoria water lily at Botanic Gardens

Green-fingered gardeners in Belfast are celebrating the spectacular return of one of the city's most iconic - and gigantic - plants after nearly 30 years.

It is thought the Covid-19 lockdown may have played an unexpected part in the revival of the exotic Victoria water lily.

The plant, its leaves or pads measuring five feet across, has dramatically flourished again at the recently refurbished Tropical Ravine at Botanic Gardens after seeds were specially flown in from America.

It is thought the more stable environment created by the absence of regular visitors to the ravine because of the shutdown may have been a factor in the success of the germination after several years of failure.

Gardener Adrienne Armstrong said: "The fact that there have been no visitors meant that the entrance doors to the ravine haven't been opening and closing and letting draughts of air in to affect the temperature." Now staff cannot wait for the ravine to reopen so the public can see the magnificent plant, nicknamed by Adrienne as Vicky the lockdown lily.

The plant, which was discovered in Bolivia in 1801, was once a popular fixture in Botanic Gardens, where citizens used to pay for the chance to see the highlight of the city's horticultural season in all her leafy and flowering glory.

But after the condition of the ravine's roof deteriorated it made it impossible for the tropical aquatic, which was named after Queen Victoria, to bloom. The last time it flowered was in 1992.

However, after the ravine underwent a four-year £3.8m restoration, funded by the Heritage Fund and Belfast City Council, a bespoke pond was installed with a facility to heat the water to ensure optimum conditions for the water lily. Seeds were obtained from Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania and were sown on January 24.

Derek Lockwood, the propagator, added: "It's been marvellous to see."

Belfast Telegraph