Puyas are terrestrial bromeliads with very sharp spines on their leaves, and they tend to be large. We have not had any flowering recently, but we had a request for photos of the largest of all, Puya raimondii, in cultivation in our garden. So we have photographed it, and some other (unnamed) puyas from Peru as well as a very small species, P. mirabilis, that is quite common in cultivation.
Puya raimondii is the largest known bromeliad, forming a rosette around 3 meters high and reaching 10 to 12 meters in flower. Legend has it that the plant takes 150 years to flower, whereupon it dies without forming offsets. More recent estimates reduce the time for maturity to between 80 and 100 years (Rauh, 1970-73). Puya raimondii grows in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia at around 4,000 meters, and is said to be threatened with extinction (for a description of a conservation project in Bolivia, see Musch, 1997). A specimen flowered in the University of California-Berkeley Botanical Garden from August through November of 1986 - in the somewhat milder California climate the plant took only 28 years to flower from seed (Lineham, 1987)
Our plants were grown from seed collected at Cochabamba, 4000 meters up in the Peruvian Andes, for Der Palmengarten in Frankfurt (Germany), and sown by us in 1991. Most of our seedlings were given to local botanic gardens and universities, and we now have just the one plant growing in our garden.
Grown from seed said to be collected in "Rio Pampas", Peru, in 1992 by Karel Knize. The plants are rather different to most puya species, having much broader more shiny leaves. The seeds were also different in not having noticeable "wings" like they usually have, looking more like an aechmea seed!
There is a 100,000 hectare reserve on the border between Peru and Bolivia called "Rio Heath Pampas Sanctuary" which may be the place this seed came from. It is rather ornamental with its broad, somewhat lax leaves.
Another grown from seed collected by Karel Knize, this time said to be from Apurimac - a river running down the central highlands of Peru. The plant flowered in 2002, see following photos:
A group of three puyas in our nursery:
A. Puya species Apurimac
B. Puya mirabilis - a small, common, green flowered species
C. Puya species Rio Pampas