Mosaics from the heritage of ELTE – May 2022

Object of the month – White water-lily 

Eighty-year-old herbarium specimen of the White water-lily (Nymphaea lotus var. thermalis) from the collection of Rezső Soó.

The relatives of the White water-lily in Püspökfürdő (Oradea, Romania) live nearly 2000 km away in Africa. According to the long-standing view of the former director of the Botanical Garden, János Tuzson, the Nile water lily (Nymphaea lotus) may have been a natural stand in the subtropical climate 2-3 million years ago. During the ice ages, it was able to survive and become independent of its Nile counterpart due to the milder local temperature conditions. Its relatives were clarified by molecular genetics: it has no different from the Nile water lily. It was naturalized probably during the Roman period. Unfortunately, the habitat in Oradea is endangered by great tourism investments. 

This herbarium sheet was collected on the 13rd of October 1940 by Rezső Soó, who was one of the greatest figures in Hungarian botany and former director of the Botanical Garden, during this years he was the head of the department in Cluj-Napoca. As a dried plant (herbarium sheet) it can be preserved and used for educational and research purposes for centuries. The genetic stock of the specimen could used for comparison to these days, as the other 30,000 specimens of the Herbarium from many parts of the world. The greatest value of this collection is the series of the flora of Carpathian Basin, including many species of plants, which are extinct at the original habitat.


László Papp, Botanical Garden of ELTE 

Source/author of illustration:
Papp László