Surrey’s ‘sheep-eating’ plant set to bloom for first time

A rare plant from Chile is set to bloom in the next few days for the first time since it was planted 15 years ago.

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The Puya chilensis (or Chilean Puya), located in a Surrey glasshouse and cared for by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been predicted to bloom for the first time since it was planted 15 years ago.

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The plant, which is now 3 metres tall, will bloom within the next couple of days, growing large green-yellow flowers containing enough nectar for a human being to consume. Few specimens bloom in the UK, making this an exciting occurrence for both the RHS and horticultural enthusiasts alike.

Puya chilensis is native to the Andes, and is often referred to as the ‘sheep-eating’ plant because of its razor spines, which ensnare an animal.  The animal becomes trapped, starves, and then decays at the base of the plant, acting as a kind of fertilizer.

Despite being quite a hardy plant, (it can withstand temperatures as low as -7°C), the Chilean Puya is fast becoming extinct in its native Chile, as shepherds are setting fire to it in order to protect their flocks.

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This flowering, therefore, is an exciting event, as horticulturalist Cara Smith says: “I’m really pleased that we’ve finally coaxed our Puya chilensis into flower. We keep it well fed with liquid fertiliser, as feeding it on its natural diet might prove a bit problematic. It’s growing in the arid section of our glasshouse with its deadly spines well out of reach of both children and sheep alike.”