Gigantic lily pads reappear in Paraguay lagoon

January 10, 2018, 10:08 a.m.
People take a boat to see giant water lilies in the Paraguay River.
Photo: Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty Images

Giant lily pads have reappeared in a tributary of the Paraguay River after being declared endangered a dozen years ago.

Victoria cruziana water lilies are an impressive 5-feet wide and are known to locals as "alligator lilies" because they're so huge, they could shelter a small alligator. The plants produce large creamy-white flowers that nestle between the massive lily pads. The flowers turn pink shortly after pollination.

The environmental ministry told The Associated Press that the aquatic plants had been gradually disappearing from the river due to dredging and because visitors steal the plants.

The resurgence of the lilies has drawn tourists to the mouth of the Salado River where locals take admirers on boat rides in Piquete Cue, just north of Asuncion, to see the jaw-dropping plants.

"It's a very beautiful natural spectacle," Antonio Benítez, owner of a canoe, told the AP in Guarani, an indigenous language of South America. "I have lived in the area since I was a child and together with the neighborhood, we thought it had already become extinct, but it returned."

People have been warned not to harvest the plants, which locals use to make a tea they believe can help with respiratory issues. Officials say those who try to take the plants could be fined.

"This is something that you just don't see every day. Or even every year," Agustin Gomez told AFP News. "You do see lily pads all the time but not so many. And not so enormous!"

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