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"Queen of the Andes" Blooms at San Francisco Botanical Garden

(SAN FRANCISCO, 19 July, 2006) – San Francisco Botanical Garden Society (SFBGS) is proud to announce that the largest species of bromeliad in the world, the rare Puya raimondii (pronounced Poo-ya ray-mun-d-i), commonly known as "Queen of the Andes," is in bloom now at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

In the wild the plants reach up to 9 feet tall in leaf, and produce flower spikes of up to 27 - 30 feet tall. It has been estimated that each plant takes between 80-150 years to flower in wild populations. The specimen at San Francisco Botanical Garden is a more modest 6 feet tall, and the flower spike is perhaps 12-15 feet tall. But then this plant is flowering precociously young, at the tender age of 33 years old.

See the San Francisco Chronicle article Splendor in the grass at Botanical Garden

San Francisco Botanical Garden obtained seeds for this plant from the famed San Francisco plant collector, Victor Reiter, in 1972. Young plants were grown in the Botanical Garden's Nursery, and eventually planted in the Garden, between the Succulent and the Redwood Trail collections. "The only other recorded flowering of this species in a garden that we have been able to find was at the University of California Berkeley Botanical Garden, where one flowered in 1986 at 28 years old," said SFBG Plant Collections Manager, Tony Morosco. "We hope that our plants set seed, which we will collect and distribute to other institutions, thus ensuring the future of the species in cultivation. We also plan on taking voucher herbarium specimens and placing them into the University of California and California Academy of Sciences herbaria for future reference."

Puya raimondiiPuya (Poo-ya) is a group of 160-180 species of plants in the pineapple (also called bromeliad) family. They are native to the Andes Mountains of South and Central America. Many of the species are monocarpic, meaning the parent plant dies after it flowers and fruits for the first time. This species is endangered in the wild with only a few small populations. Studies have recently shown that most plants are very similar genetically, possibly leading to problems with inbreeding.

These plants are incredibly spiky mounds of thin leaves with large fish-hook shaped thorns at the edge of leaves. Mature plants resemble large "koosh balls" or an odd yucca. As the plant reaches maturity, it sends up a massive spike inflorescence that can be 30 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter. It is estimated that as many as 8,000 flowers are produced on a single spike.

Garden visitors are invited to view this rare plant in bloom. "The Puya raimondii is located opposite the bottom of the Succulent Garden; the library receptionist can provide a map," explains Morosco. "Please be careful not to trample plants or the ground around the plant and flower- we have many other precious plants nearby." For further information about San Francisco Botanical Garden the public may call (415) 661-1316 or visit the web site at www.sfbotanicalgarden.org.

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