Giant lilies in full bloom

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 1.5m.

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

Over in Piquete Cue, about 25km north of Paraguay's capital Asuncion, tourists unusual pay about US$5 (S$7) for a boat ride to see and take pictures with the megalilies.

"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 2m wide," said Mr 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 the authorities have been warning that would-be teamakers could be fined if they harvest the area's hot new tourist attraction. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2018, with the headline 'Giant lilies in full bloom'. Print Edition | Subscribe