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Puya chilensis about to flower

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Giant flowerbud keeps gardeners on tenterhooks

21 March 2011

Puya chiloensis

A giant Puya chilensis flower bud, standing 2.4m (8ft) tall, is poised to open at any moment at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire, an RHS recommended garden. It's the first time staff at the garden have persuaded the plant to flower since it was planted in the Great Glasshouse 10 years ago.

The puya, a bromeliad whose leaves are edged with curved thorns vicious enough to trap a sheep, is native to the Chilean Andes. Specimens have been known to flower in the UK before; a plant grown in the subtropical Tresco Abbey Garden on the Isles of Scilly produced a flower in 1987, and a plant grown from its seed also flowered a decade later at Portmeirion in north Wales.

Once open, puya blossoms are enormous, producing massive spikes of greenish-yellow flowers with individual blooms measuring around 5cm across and containing enough nectar for a person to drink.

It's the second time staff at the Garden have persuaded a member of the Puya family to blossom: four years ago a Puya berteroniana, thought to be the only specimen in Britain, produced a spectacular 2.1m (7ft) bloom in jade green and orange.


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