Peru: Marasha Reserve – Victoria Amazonica
Victoria Amazonica aka Victoria Regia has the largest leaves in the world – massive floating pads up to 3m/10ft in diameter. The lake at Marasha Natural Reserve had quite a few shallow corner spots where the plant grows in profusion and you can guide your boat/kayak really up close. It’s absolutely impressive with humongous round leaves, covered on the external outer side with aggressive spikes and needles to protect against being chewed on by anybody. The leaves can hold up to 200kg/400lb weight on them. But the coolest part are the flowers – second largest lily flowers in the world – they open only for one night at sunset, emitting sweet smell that attracts scarab beetles (Victoria has a mutualistic relationship with them). Once the beetles crawl into the giant flowers, the flowers stop smelling and shut tight, locking the beetles inside. For the next full day, the beetles roam around the flower, pollinating it, munching on it, and mating (using the flower as valentine’s lily sex pads). Once pollinated, the petals turn pink and create an opening for the beetles to get out, powdered all over with pollen, to escape.