Sheep-eat­ing plant be­gins to flower at Royal Botan­i­cal Gar­dens

Ontario Gardener Magazine - - LOCAL DIRT -

For the first time since 1986, a plant from South Amer­ica with an im­pres­sive flower spike is be­gin­ning to bloom at Royal Botan­i­cal Gar­dens’ (RBG) Mediter­ranean Gar­den. Puya chilen­sis is a na­tive to the arid hill­sides of Chile, par­tic­u­larly the An­des and on north fac­ing mat­toral slopes 300 to 1000 me­tres above sea level. This plant grows slowly and as a re­sult can take twenty years or more to flower. The bright green flow­ers are pro­duced on im­pres­sive spikes which can grow up to two me­ters in height. It is an ever­green peren­nial form­ing rosettes of grey­ish green, long, nar­row leaves with ra­zor sharp, hooked spines. These spines are likely an adap­ta­tion to pre­vent her­bi­vores brows­ing on the plant.

In its nat­u­ral habi­tat P. chilen­sis is thought to be haz­ardous to sheep and birds which may be­come en­tan­gled in the spines of the leaves. If the an­i­mal re­mains en­snared, can­not es­cape and dies the plant may gain nu­tri­ents as the an­i­mal de­com­poses. This has yet to be proven but if true would make P. chilen­sis a pro­to­car­niv­o­rous plant. It has also earned this plant the com­mon name sheep eat­ing plant.

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