Plant of the month: May
Also Known As: Puya
Native To: Chile
Blooms: Yellow-green to turquoise, tubular flowers on a stalk up to 4 meters tall in late spring
Habitat: Arid hillsides of the Andes, on north-facing slopes of matorral areas at 300–1,000 m (980–3,280 ft) above sea level.
Where Found At BBG: Arid House
Puya chilensis is a stunning relative of the pineapple. Its long, serrated, evergreen leaves have vicious spines, which it uses to snare and trap sheep and other animals, which slowly starve to death. The animals then decay at the base of the plant, acting as a fertiliser!
It can take many years to flower from seed – often between 10 to 20 years. Our plant flowered for the first time in 2018, after being planted in the Arid House on 10th August 2007. Our particular specimen was grown from seed, collected during the Watson and Pern expedition, on behalf of the Alpine Garden Society and donated to us as a plant on 8th May 2002.
All Puya species (pronounced Pu-ja) enjoy a well-drained soil in full sun. Although used as an ornamental plant, its leaves possess a fibre used to make rot-resistant fishing nets.