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Nymphaea lotus: Geographical distribution

The primary natural habitat of Nymphaea lotus, the tiger lotus or Egyptian white water-lily, are tropical regions of Africa and Southeast Asia. A single, isolated population is found in Europe, in the outflows of hot springs in northern Romania. These specimens are several thousand kilometers distant from the nearest population on the Nile. There are several theories to explain this unusual distribution.

One possibility is that humans are responsible. They may have imported these decorative plants and intentionally put them in the hot springs. Or perhaps a migratory bird carried some of the sticky seeds across the Mediterranean Sea. What may seem the most far-fetched explanation is also the most likely one: that the population in Romania are survivors from a time when Europe had a tropical climate. Fossils from the Tertiary Period demonstrate that the Egyptian white water-lily was once common throughout Europe. But this would mean that these plants have survived several Ice Ages, more than a million years, in these hot springs! It may still seem hard to believe, but there’s another piece of evidence to support this theory: tropical snails are also found near these hot springs, the same tropical snails found around populations of Nymphaea lotus in Africa.



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Nymphaea lotus: Geographical distribution (MP3, 666 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Andreas Gröger and Günter Gerlach, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg