Rare giant lily pads draw impressive crowds to Paraguay lagoon

An off-the-beaten-path corner of Paraguay has become a tourist attraction this month as visitors flock to see a rare delight floating on a hidden lagoon: giant round water lilies spanning over 1.5 meters (five feet).

These aquatic plants -- their scientific name is Victoria cruziana but locals call them "alligator lilies" -- sprawling enough that they can provide a hiding place for a small alligator.
 
They appear just every third or fourth southern hemisphere summer.

Over in Piquete Cue, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of Asuncion, fans of botany, water lilies and the unusual pay about $5 for one memorable boat ride to the bright yellowish green star of the really singular show.

Amazed tourists take pictures of each other with the other-worldly background, and yes, the inevitable selfie with megalilies that unlike many are circular and rather recall a massive flattened pea.

"This is something that you just don't see every day. Or even every year. You do see lily pads all the time but not so many. And not so enormous! Some are two meters wide," said Agustin Gomez.

The "Yacare Irumpe" are usually found in calm waters, and tend to capture tourists' attention both because of their size and exceptional shape.

Locals believe the plant is good for making tea to fight asthma and bronchial problems, so authorities have been warning that would-be teamakers could be fined if they harvest the area's hot new tourist attraction.

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