National flower threatened by hybrid species
A recent research has revealed that the national flower of Sri Lanka
‘Blue Water Lily or Nil Manel’ (Nymphaea Nouchali) is facing the threat
of extinction due to its hybridization with the violet flowered Nymphaea
which is often misidentified as the national flower.
This research was carried out by Peradeniya University Botany
Department Senior Lecturer Prof Deepthi Yakandawala and Wayamba
University Horticulture and Landscape Gardening Department Senior
Lecturer Dr Kapila Yakandawala.
The research has revealed a range of hybrids of these two varieties
some closer to the native and some closer to the violet flowered
Nymphaea which is acting as a silent invader. Prof Deepthi Yakandawala
said that these hybrids are widely spreading over the country becoming a
threat to the native original national flower.
“The violet flowered Nymphaea is thought to have been introduced into
the country as an ornamental aquatic a long time back and has now got
established in local water-bodies. It has been erroneously identified as
the native variety in many literatures. It has not only invaded the
natural habitats of the native variety, but has also extended its
territory into larger tanks which are habitats of other aquatic plants.
The large leaves floating on the surface of the water cuts down a
fair percentage of the light that penetrates into the water,” she noted.
She observed that due to the erroneous identification of the alien
violet flowered Nymphaea species as the national flower, it has gained a
prominent role in social, cultural and religious events in Sri Lanka
providing more opportunities for its spread.
The professor observed that the pure Nymphaea Nouchali populations
are fast shrinking as a result of the rapid spread of the invasive
violet flowered Nymphaea and hybrid varieties. She urged the relevant
authorities to educate the public about the original national flower to
face the impending threat to the species.