The Mbwun Lily (Liliceae Mbwunensis) is an extinct species of water lily from the Upper Xingú Rainforest of Brazil. It was a large, attractive lily pad with purple blossoms, bright yellow stamens, and a fibrous stem.
The lily was cultivated and worshipped by the secretive Kothoga tribe. They fed the lily to victims as part of a ritual. The lily was prone to infection by a virus which, in large doses, had teratogenic properties. Greg Kawakita and Margo Green independently came to the conclusion that the virus injected reptile genes into the human host's genetic code. Margo suspected that the agent of change was a combination of powerful hormones, like the ones that turn a caterpillar into a butterfly or a tadpole into a frog.
Early symptoms included enhanced smell and hearing, but diminished eyesight and sensitivity to light. The virus gradually changed the host's body structure, hair, skin, and even limbs and internal organs. In the final stage the host would transform into a monstrous creature with mixed primate and reptilian features.
The resulting entity, also called Mbwun, was powerful, violent and addicted to the hormones contained in the lily. The Kothoga kept only a single Mbwun at a time, creating another when one died from injury or old age. They believed that Mbwun was a gift and a curse from a devil named Zilashkee.
The natural habitat of the lily and the Kothoga tribe was destroyed by the Brazilian government sometime in the late 1980s. The only specimens of the lily outside of the region were in storage crates at the New York Museum of Natural History. A former museum employee named John Whittlesey, who had been forced to take the extract, followed the crates back to the museum and lived in its extensive subbasement, occasionally sneaking into the storage room to eat tiny quantities of the fibers. It is not known at what stage in his tranformation he arrived at the museum, but by the events of Relic Whittlesey was a horrific half-primate, half-reptilian weighing approximately 500 pounds.
When the crates containing the fibers were moved into the Secure Storage Area, the Whittlesey/Mbwun was unable to get the fibers it needed so badly. It began killing museum visitors and employees who strayed into the subbasement and eating part of their brain that secreted some of the same hormones. Museum employees Margo Green and Dr. Whitney Frock, using a gene sequencing program developed by Dr. Greg Kawakita, discovered the nature of the lily and the Mbwun creature, although they did not make the connection between consuming the liy and turning into the creature. After a killing spree that interrupted the opening of the Superstition Exhibition, the beast was killed.
Kawakita did make the connection between the lily extract and Mbwun, and left the museum to set up his own private laboratory. He experimented with the virus and sold the lily extract as a narcotic to local addicts. Many of his initial customers suffered severe side effects and became known as Wrinklers. Kawakita became addicted to the drug and died horribly underground at the hands of his own creations.
Two years later, Margo Green, investigating Kawakita's death, found pieces of Mbwun Lily at Kawakita's burned-out laboratory in the West Side Railyards. She did her own analysis of the lily and quickly discovered the virus in the plant's stem and the Whittlesey/Mbwun connection.
Later Green discovered that Kawakita had engineered the plant to grow in a temperate climate and planted a colony of it in the Central Park Reservoir. Unfortunately this was discovered after the NYPD had set in motion a plan to flood the reservoir and drain it into the tunnels and storm drains under New York.
To prevent the lily and its virus from escaping into the ocean and contaminating the global ecosystem, Green, Vincent D'Agosta and Special Agent Pendergast went down into the tunnels and planted dynamite to collapse several spillways and hold back the water long enough for a herbicide to take effect. The plan apparently worked and the last known specimens of the lily were killed.