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|Queen of the Andes
(Puya raimondii) the world's largest bromeliad
The Queen of the Andes can reach a height of over 30 feet when in full bloom. The flower stalk rises from a rosette of slender leaves 8-9 feet across. Each leaf is lined with sharp thorns.
In addition to its size, the Queen of the Andes is distinguished by the extreme age it usually reaches before flowering, anywhere from 80 to 150 years. [The few Queens of the Andes that have been raised in botanical gardens reached their flowering stage much, much quicker. One at the University of California at Berkeley Botanical Garden flowered at the very young age of 24 years. Why this is the case is unknown.] The stalk on which the flowers grow can be over 25 feet long. When in full bloom, a single plant can have as many as ten thousand flowers. Each creamy-white flower is about 2 inches wide, with bright orange anthers. On the rare occasion that it does flower, dozens of hummingbirds gather to feed on the brief bonanza of nectar. Up to six million seeds may be produced by one plant, but a relatively small number of them will take root and grow to maturity. Like most other bromeliads, the Queen of the Andes dies after flowering and producing seeds.
The Queen of the Andes is found only in three places in Peru (Ancash, Cajamarquilla and Katak) and in Comanche mountain of Bolivia (a national park established specifically for its protection), at about 13,000 feet in areas of sloping, rocky ground that are well drained. The climate in such areas tends to be very cold, with temperatures occasionally dropping to as low as -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit). Inhabiting such a harsh, high-altitude environment, the Queen of the Andes displays a number of adaptations, including the production of a chemical in its sap that acts as an "anti-freeze" and allows it to survive the huge temperature variations that exist between night and day.
Due to its extremely long seed-to-flowering life and limited distribution, the Queen of the Andes is considered an endangered species.
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This page was last updated on May 19, 2017.