Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Other Victoria's Secret

I was walking along the mall, when I had a chance to seize upon the other Victoria's secret. Though I have gotten up close and personal with her in Adelaide last summer (where she had a palatial glass house mansion all to herself), I was not privy to her secrets then (wrong timing, too early in the season). However, there were notices by her private pool, warning passersby of the depraved sexual rituals associated with her.

Now this Victoria's secret is far more sordid than that of the other Victoria, the one that she is named after. No, not Victoria's Secrets the lingerie; that is a no secret as all her goods are on display throughout the world. I mean that of Queen Victoria; just look at the number of articles/shows regarding her affairs with two Prime Ministers and a servant.

Anyway, back to this Victoria's secret. Now this Victoria is one feisty lady. From her humble origin in the parasite riddled, insect infested backwaters of South America, she can now proudly say that she is represented in almost every continent in the world.

Victoria, whenever she gets herself firmly established, would soon open a 'house of pleasure'! Typical of her, she starts by slowly but surely taking control of her neighbourhood, pushing competitors away and taking charge of as much area as possible, rather like a very bad gangster. When she has taken enough space, and the time is right, she sets up her signature 'pleasure of the night' club.

From afar, it looks like just another joint in the area, not too seedy, but more than enough to warn off those who would rather avoid such 'houses of pleasure'. If you do get closer, you begin to wonder if she is running the kinky sort, as hers is decorated with nasty spikes that scream 'Mistress Victoria' right away. Then again it could just be a security measure to ensure that her club does not get trashed before opening night.

The immaculately white walls and entrance belies the true nature of Victoria's joint. Around 5pm the evening, wafts of sweet and seductive scents were released to entice passersby to patronise her establishment. Drawn by the seductive scents and the hypnotic appearance of her house, patrons come, literally flying into her establishment. It is as if they were hypnotised or possessed by an unseen force, making even the most reluctant patron to give her place a try.

Once inside, they also discover that this club is a little strange, with many parts of the interior deco being edible, somewhat akin to the witch's house in Hansel and Gretel. Choosing to ignore the dark, foreboding nature of such edible houses, her guests enjoy themselves in the club. By 8pm, her guest (the males outnumbering the females) were already drinking, eating and dancing away.  This soon progresses into an all night orgy by 10pm. Victoria turns up the heat in her place by as much as 10oC higher. The hot and steamy room allows her guest to enjoy the party and sex all night without burning up too much energy.

When dawn breaks, some of the satiated guests try to leave, but alas, the exit could not be found. Victoria had closed the doors, trapping all of her guests inside! She is one weird character. With no exit and nothing else to do, her guests resumes the orgy that would put Caligula to shame. The mistress of the place then gets a little kinky and begins to give them a dusty golden shower. Even though this is not what most of her guest are into, they nevertheless are not bothered with it. Some even enjoy eating the golden shower!

The trapped guests wanders round and round inside Victoria's dungeon of pleasure, hoping to find an escape. Only in the evening, does Victoria open her gates to let her 'prisoners' out. As if to disguise her 'dungeon', it is now painted a different colour to ensure that they cannot find it again. Her guests, all covered with her dusty golden shower, now leaves; the ones that were not too careful would again be ensnared by another of her pearly white club that she has set up nearby. So let me show you this Victoria's secret... (scroll down for the pictures, hehe)

Meet Victoria...
The Victoria amazonica at 1-Utama at night. The flower is white on the first night and pink on the second night of blooming. The flowers close during the day.

This Victoria is no other than the Amazon Giant Waterlily, Victoria amazonica. The white club is her flower, opening for the first night. Only the pistils (female reproductive parts) are receptive, the scent of the flowers, together with the white coloured petals draws scarab beetles from the genus Cyclocephala to her flowers.  They can be carrying pollen from another Victoria amazonica released earlier that day. Once inside, they drink the nectar produced and sometimes eat the various parts of the flower inside.
The lily pond during daytime. A bud peeks out from the water surface.

Any pollen brought in has a chance of ending up on the receptive stigmatic surface of this flower. The flower is thermogenic but not thermoregulatory, producing about 1.4W of heat to raise the temperature up to 10oC from the ambient temperature. This allows the scarab beetles inside the flower to use only very little energy to keep themselves active and concentrate on their mating.
A bud all armed with spines - all the better to keep it from being eaten.

By dawn, the white flower closes and traps the beetles inside. Pollen from the stamens matures and showers down on the beetles. The trapped beetles become coated with this dust. On the evening of the second day, the lily opens for the second time. This time, the flower blushes pink, and is scentless. No longer attractive to the beetles, they fly away in search of another white flower.
A large lily pad that has not completely flattened out. They reddish in tinge and you can see the thorns on the upturned edges of the leaf. There is a white bud in the foreground and an opening pinkish flower in the background as this photo was taken in the evening.

This allows for the cross pollination of Victoria amazonica, giving rise to genetic variability, and hence offspring that might be better at surviving the harsh Amazonian environment. However, they are also self-fertile.
A withered flower (third day). The petals and sepals close back, with the thorny sepals offering the now fertilised flower some protection. Looks more like an alien from outer space.
The developing fruit pod, all armed with spines. There are baby plants in the pod too (the small pointed leaf).
A lily-pad that has almost fully expanded. Notice how water on the surface seems to be directed into specific 'channels' on the leaf surface.
The upturned leaf edge that is supposed to push away competitors. Those thorns will give you a nasty prick if you try to touch them.

If you are in the Klang Valley, you can catch a glimpse of this amazing waterlily at 1-Utama Shopping Centre.  The Adelaide Botanic Garden in South Australia has a Victoria amazonica pond in a beautiful glasshouse.