Macarenia clavigera in the scenic “River of Five Colors” is a water plant, not algae

[Colombia] During certain months of the year, Colombia’s Caño Cristales turns shades of red, blue, yellow, orange and green in a vibrant natural display that happens nowhere else on Earth.

Just east of the Andes, central Colombia’s Caño Cristales is a river like no other. Reaching 100km long and sometimes called the “Liquid Rainbow”, Caño Cristales runs during certain months of the year with shades of red, blue, yellow, orange and green in a vibrant natural display that happens nowhere else on Earth.

Macarenia clavigera
Macarenia clavigera

The bed of river in the end of July through November is variously colored yellow, green, blue, black, and especially red, the last caused by the Macarenia clavigera (Podostemaceae) on the bottom of the river.

Macarenia clavigera
Macarenia clavigera

Some people mistakenly think Caño Cristales’ colour comes from algae or moss. The real culprit, however, is a picky endemic aquatic plant which requires precise conditions, including just the right water level and just the right amount of sunlight, to take on its bright hues.

Macarenia clavigera up close.
Macarenia clavigera up close.

These red plants adhere tightly to rocks in places where the river has faster current.

cano-cristales-16[3]
River of 5 colors.
The site was closed to tourists for several years because of terrorist activity in the region along with concerns about the environmental impact of tourism. It was reopened to visitors in 2009, and today there are several Colombian Tourist Agencies that will fly travelers to La Macarena. From there it is a short trip into “Serrania de la Macarena,” the national park in which Cano Cristales is located.

 

View original article at: Colombia’s Caño Cristales liquid rainbow

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