A rare species of waterlily, the smallest variety in the world, has sparked a police appeal after one was stolen from Kew Gardens.
It has come to light that on Thursday January 9, between 8.30am and 3pm, a Nymphaea Thermarum was removed from the Princess of Wales Conservatory at the world-famous Royal Botanic Gardens.
Shocked staff told officers the plant would have had to have been dug, or pulled up from the shallow water of the pond which is a key feature of the glasshouse which was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1987.
This was also the same year that the tiny plant, which grows in damp mud rather than water, was first discovered in Mashyuza, Rwanda. It became extinct in the wild two years ago due to over-exploitation of the hot spring which fed its fragile habitat.
Kew is one of only two locations in the world to cultivate the lily, whose pads are only 1cm in diameter, and has only 30 on display. German botanist Professor Eberhard Fischer is credited with saving Nymphaea Thermarum from extinction when he transported its seeds to the Botanic Gardens in Bonn.
Its value is said to be priceless.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the CID on Richmond-Upon-Thames Borough on 020 8721 5934 .