Tuesday 18 June 2013
A giant Puya chilensis flower bud, standing 3m high, is poised to burst into bloom in the Glasshouse at RHS Garden Wisley for the first time since it started growing 15 years ago.
However the striking plant, which produces enormous spikes of neon bright, greeny-yellow flowers, conceals a gruesome secret. In its natural habitat in the Andes it uses its razor sharp spines to snare and trap sheep and other animals, which slowly starve to death and decay at the base of the plant, providing it with the grisly equivalent of a bag of fertiliser. The plant is set to bloom within the next few days and should remain in flower for around a week, possibly more.
The blossoms are gigantic with each individual bloom measuring around 5cm across and containing enough nectar for a person to drink. Very few specimens of the plant have been known to have flowered in the UK, perhaps because of the difficulty of replicating its unique diet. The plant’s taste for sheep has also proved it’s undoing in its native habitat where shepherds will go in search of the plants and set fire to them to protect their flocks.
Cara Smith, who looks after the plant at RHS Garden Wisley said; “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 well worth a visit but parents coming along with small children don’t need to worry about the plant devouring their little ones. It’s growing in the arid section of our Glasshouse with its deadly spines well out of reach of both children and sheep alike.”
Notes to editors
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RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey GU23 6QB
www.rhs.org.uk/wisley 0845 260 9000
RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Crag Lane, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG3 1QB
www.rhs.org.uk/harlowcarr 01423 504859
RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Creephedge Lane, Rettendon, Chelmsford, Essex CM3 8ET
www.rhs.org.uk/hydehall 0845 265 8071
RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington, Devon EX38 8PH
www.rhs.org.uk/rosemoor 01805 626810
About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood for the encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture. We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, the first of our gardens, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity.
Today the RHS is committed to providing a voice for all gardeners. We are driven by a simple love of plants and a belief that gardeners make the world a better place. 209 years on we continue to safeguard and advance the science, art and practice of horticulture, creating displays that inspire people to garden. In all aspects of our work we help gardeners develop by sharing our knowledge of plants, gardens and the environment.
RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening by joining us today. Enjoy 12 months membership for the price of 9 and join us from just £39 by visiting: rhs.org.uk/join/3530 or call: 0845 130 4646 quoting 3530. Our 12 for 9 offer is available by annual Direct Debit and for new members only by 31 January 2014.
RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262