The Amazon Waterlily Pavilion has been described as an ‘exquisite glass palace for a jewel of the natural world’, housing the Adelaide Botanic Garden’s exceptional Giant Waterlily, (botanical name Victoria Amazonica) a specimen native to the waters of the Amazon River of South America. The pavilion was built in 2007 to replace the Amazon Waterlily's original purpose-built residence, Victoria House, now demolished. Victoria House was originally constructed in 1868 during the directorship of Richard Schomburgk to cultivate the Giant Waterlily and other rare tropical plants. The success of Victoria House and its Giant Waterlily added greatly to the prestige of the Adelaide Botanical Gardens and with it Schomburgk’s own directorial reputation.
Designed by Flightpath Architects (now Stallard Meek Flightpath) the design of the energy-efficient glasshouse is said to be inspired by the lily's giant leaves, and the original pond from the Victoria House remains as the centrepiece of the new pavilion. An interpretive gallery inside the pavilion explores the unique form of the waterlily, describing its remarkable biology and reproductive systems and explores its cultural and symbolic significance. The landscape surrounding the pavilion includes bromeliads, orchids and begonias.
On 1st January 2008, the Giant Waterlily blossomed for the first time in its new home. It produced a spectacular flower measuring 30cm in diameter and 12cm in height. The largest lily pad was 165cm in diameter. The best time to see the Waterlily’s spectacular flower is between September and April though the flowers only last for approximately 48 hours; best to get in quick! The flower opens with dazzling white on the first evening, with beetles drawn in by the flower’s sweet scent. The flower then shuts, trapping the beetles inside the flower, where the beetles’ transfer of pollen helps fertilisation take place. The flower reopens the following evening, this time in pink and purple tones with the beetles moving on to repeat the process, and the flower closing up and sinking back underwater. The Victoria amazonica’s flowers can grow up to 40cm, and its lily pads up to two metres in diameter.