- Planet Possible
What a huge lily pad can teach us about building design
Giant Amazonian lily pads are the world’s largest and strongest floating plants. How they’re built is inspiring real-world structures from skyscrapers to wind turbines.
The giant Amazonian water lily has long fascinated scientists, architects, and artists for its beauty and sheer size. Yet how the lily’s leaves are able to grow as large as 10 feet across, strong enough to support the weight of a small child, has remained a mystery—until now.
A team of British and French scientists studying the mechanics of those giant leaves have documented a network of branching, girder-like veins optimized for strength and structural support. Their research, published in February in Science Advances, could transform what Chris Thorogood, the deputy director of the Botanic Garden & Arboretum at the University of Oxford, calls “a big botanical enigma” into a guide that could inspire better engineering