Paraguay: after the rain, the giant water lilies

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They are back: the giant water lilies of Paraguay have hatched after heavy rains near Asuncion, to the delight of tourists who have come to admire this unusual natural wonder.

“Nature continues to be sympathetic to us”, rejoices Rosa Morel, director of environmental management at the Ministry of the Environment.

Native to the Amazon, the rare Victoria cruziana, locally called “Yacaré Irupé”, is the largest floating aquatic plant in the world, and thrives in tropical and stagnant waters.

Its spectacular apple-green leaves, which can bloom over 1.5 m in diameter, reappear every three years, in shallow lagoons in a loop of the Paraguay river, in Limpio, thirty kilometers from the capital Asuncion.

To better admire these giant Irupés, which look like gigantic pie dishes, nature lovers rent boats for a ride on these calm waters, frequented by palmipeds and where caimans sometimes evolve.

Victoria cruziana is “a very fragile plant. It is a source of work for many people during the summer. When the moment of its flowering comes, it is flush with the surface and blooms very quickly. And this is the moment when we become a center of tourist attraction for about a month, ”explains Cristina Nuñez, owner of a spa in the region.

“The microclimate of this place favors the growth of the species. But if the chemical and biological ecosystem changes, it will die out, ”warns biochemist Mirtha Ruiz Diaz.

Two kilometers away, one of the small lakes surrounding the area where the Irupés thrive – in the Piquete Cué district – was tinted red following pollution caused by a cattle slaughterhouse a few months ago. .

“The long drought, which lasted more than five months until November, helped us stop pollution. The rains followed immediately. Fortunately, the cyanobacteria did not spread, ”explained Rosa Morel, from the Ministry of the Environment.

“Nature is wise. The drought bothers a lot of people. But we, she favored us to put an end to this pollution. The rain has come. The plants grew and, in the process, the Irupés hatched, ”said the expert.

The flowers of Victoria cruziana only open at night. They are white the first evening and turn pink, then red 24 hours later, before fading at the next sunrise.