botany

A plant from Chile kills and eats sheep...

Puya chilensis, a temperate climate evergreen perennial and close relative to the comparatively tame pineapple, catches, kills and feeds off of relatively large mammals, including sheep.

P. chilensis doesn’t consume and digest plants by way of conventional carnivorous plant methods, but nonetheless, it will snag and trap a sheep in its masses of thorns, holding the animal until it dies of starvation, and then it will proceed to feed off nutrients supplied by the decomposing carcass.

The young leaf shoots of P. chilensis can be eaten by people. Baskets and such are made from strong fibers obtained from the leaves and stems of the plant.

Here is a short recent article on Puya chilensis, apparently a 10ft specimen has just bloomed for the first time at RHS Garden Wisely, in England. Cara Smith, a Horticulturist at Wisley had this to say about the rare occurrence:  “I’m really pleased that we’ve finally coaxed our Puya chilensis into flower. We keep it well fed with liquid fertilizer as feeding it on its natural diet might prove a bit problematic. It’s growing in the arid section of our glasshouse with its deadly spines well out of reach of both children and sheep alike.”

So, needless to say, Puya chilensis is a great contender for privacy screening / security planting along boarders shared with pesky neighbors.

Here are some photo I have posted previously of a very close relative to Puya chilensis, Puya berteroniana, spectacular in its own regard for its massive aquamarine/blue and orange flower spikes.

Thermopsis macrophylla - False Lupine

A west coast native annual nitrogen fixing plant in the Fabaceae family. Reminds me of Crotolaria in its growth habit and overall appearance. It looks like it has potential as a cultivated, drought tolerant biomass or cover corp species.

Thermopsis macrophylla leaf and flower.

Thermopsis macrophylla leaf and flower.

Thermopsis macrophylla flower spike.

Thermopsis macrophylla flower spike.

Ebenaceae, Diospyros blancoi, velvet apple, mabolo

Mabolo, or velvet apple is an attractive tree, closely related to the persimmon and ebony.

As the English common name would suggest, the fruit is covered in a fine, velvety skin, usually reddish brown. Inside is a soft, creamy flesh with a unique taste and aroma. The species is native to the Philippines where the tree is referred to as kamagong. It is strictly a tropical tree, drought tolerant growing well in a wide variety of soils, from sea level to 2,400 feet. Planted from the seed the tree can take up to six years to bear fruit. Trees propagated from cuttings produce fruit in three to four years.

 

Lecythidaceae, Gustavia superba, membrillo, paco

Membrillo is a tree with origins in tropical lowlands from Ecuador to Panama and Venezuela. It is mostly found in homegardens grown for personal consumption. The tree is generally slow growing, likes water and sun, and can reach a height of five to ten meters. The rounded, pear shaped fruits appear on the trunk contains one to four large smooth seeds surrounded by a fleshy yellowish orange edible pulp, which is typically boiled and is said to have a taste resembling meat.Membrillo pulp is rich in vitamins A, B, and C. The species is adapted to hot, humid, tropical climates and will do best in well drained soils with full sunlight. The leaves of G. superba are a favorte food of iguana.