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A plant capable of 'restoring a woman's virginity' is under threat as an ecopark declared a Unesco World Heritage Site has been affected by severe drought and forest fires.

The 655-sq km Chapada dos Veadeiros Park, 200 km from Brasilia, which was included in Unesco's list of World Heritage Sites in 2001, includes certain odd curiosities, such as a leguminous plant known as 'Barbatimao' or 'virgin again'.

Brazilian popular culture says the plant helps form tissue in humans to such an extent that it can even 'restore a woman's virginity', presumably by recreating hymen-like tissue, park guide Adelidio Ferreira said.

Ferreira said the vegetation also includes a plant known as 'Candonba', which produces a highly inflammable oil that can spontaneously light up from the heat of the sun alone.

The park contains 60 percent of the plant species and 80 percent of wildlife species found in Brazil. However, a bad drought that started in April has begun to cause devastation in the preserve, experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said.

Low humidity during times of drought often results in spread of fires set by careless hunters or tourists to cook their meals, said a coordinator of the Chico Mendes Environmental Institute, which is in charge of conservation in the park.

There has been major fires during the first half of this year as well as in 2003 and 2007, Chapada deputy director Jose Fernando Rebello said.


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