Thursday, 2 July 2009

the plant from outer space

Remember the scene in the Revenge of the Sith (Star Wars) where the Jedi Aayla Secura was betrayed and killed by her own clone troopers on the planet Felucia? The planet had all these strange and exotic plants and I swear, the Puya would have just fit right in.

Puya berteroniana or the Blue Puya, is probably one of the most outrageous bromeliads in the world. It produces massive 7-foot flower clusters in turquoise blue combined with orange, colours which is considered very rare in the plant world.

The Puya which originates from the Andes mountain range in central Chile is a terrestrial Bromeliad related to Pineapple. The plant forms a rosette of spiny silvery-green leaves about 3 feet long. The blooms are pollinated by birds, which love to sit on the outward-pointing tips and drink the nectar inside! It takes about 6-8 years to reach flowering size. The flowers are said to give off a rich, burnt sugar fragrance.

Unlike the tree-dwelling Bromeliads, Puya has fully-functional roots and grows in soil, much like cryptanthus. Eventually it will form a large stand of offshoots. What's even more bizarre is the fact that at its base, the Puya berteroniana has barbed leaves which can make lethal traps for small mammals. An animal that is trapped may die of dehydration and fertilise the soil the plant is growing in as its carcass decomposes. Not sure how true this is really.

Still, this is a must-have for any serious collector out there for it would be the talking point of the garden, especially when it is in full bloom! Probably best grown in a cacti garden, as opposed to a tropical one.

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