Puya powering up to flower

The exotic and endangered Puya raimondii at the UC Botanical Garden that began showing signs back in mid-May that it would be blooming is entering its next stage – displaying the characteristic small, spiky side-branches from which flowers will emerge.

Just when, however, remains a tough call to make, as the event is rare.

The UC Botanical Garden's Puya is showing the classic signs of preparing to flower. (Photo by Public Affairs.(

The UC Botanical Garden’s Puya is showing the classic signs of preparing to flower. (Photo by Public Affairs.(

The Puya raimondii is the largest of the bromeliads and can grow to nearly 10 feet in height, topped – on the rare occasion that it blooms – by a spike as tall as 30-feet-high and bearing thousands of flowers and up to 6 million seeds.

The UC Botanical Garden Puya that sprouted from the 12 seeds retrieved from Bolivia and planted on June 16, 1990 and then put into the ground in 1994, just turned 24. This plant is native to the Bolivian Andes and now has a nearly 19-feet-tall center stalk from which flowers will ultimately emerge. Another Puya made quite a splash and visitors flocked to the garden when it bloomed at the garden back in the late ‘80s.

Botanical Garden Director Paul Licht said it is difficult to predict just when the flowers will burst forth, as this particular Puya’s growth rate has varied widely. When the big event does happen, however, Licht said the flowers could last for up to three or four months.

The garden has scheduled a special, members-only evening with the Puya from 5-7 p.m., on Tuesday, July 8.

For updates on the Puya, see the UC Botanical Garden Facebook page.

The garden is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed the first Tuesday of each month. If the garden parking lot is full, visitors can park further up the hill at the Lawrence Hall of Science.

A special viewing platform has been put into place next to the Puya to enable visitors to get close to the plant for photos, while protecting the area around the plant.