|Puya raimondii flowering in Ayacucho, Peru.|
The first scientific description of this species was made in 1830 by the French scientist Alcide d'Orbigny after he encountered it in the region of Vacas, Cochabamba, in Bolivia at an altitude of 3960 m (12,992 ft). However, as the plants he saw were immature and not yet flowering, he could not classify them taxonomically.
The specific name of raimondii commemorates the 19th-century Italian scientist Antonio Raimondi, who immigrated to Peru and made extensive botanical expeditions there. He discovered this species later in the region of Chavín de Huantar and published it as Pourretia gigantea in his 1874 book El Perú. In 1928, the name was changed to Puya raimondii by the German botanist Hermann Harms.
This bromeliad has a gigantic inflorescence that may reach up to 10 m in height, with more than three thousand flowers and six million seeds in each plant. Its reproductive cycle is approximately 40 years.
One individual planted near sea level at the University of California Botanical Garden, USA, in 1958 grew to 7.6 m (24 ft 11 in) and bloomed as early as August 1986 after only 28 years. It is not only the largest of the Puya species, but also the largest species of Bromeliad. It can reach 3 m tall in vegetative growth, and can produce a flower spike 9–10 m tall.
Like most Bromeliads, it dies soon after flowering. It is considered to be an endangered species. Seeds were collected of P. raimondii in 1999 and 2000 of the rodales of Huashta Cruz (district Pueblo Libre, Ancash region, Peru), near the city of Caraz. It is also known to grow in the Masma Chicche District of Jauja Province.
45 km west from Caraz (Ancash - Peru) at 4200m above sea level, at Huashta Cruz, on the Cordillera Negra, there is a rodal (single-species stand) of puyas, with a 145 km view of the Cordillera Blanca. The hilly area is known as Huinchus, and the Giant Hummingbird (Patagona gigas) is often spotted here.
These plants are mainly located in the three important places of Ancash: the gully of Ingenio in Catac, the punas of Cajamarquilla and the gully of Qishqi, also in Catac. A large concentration of the plants outside of Lampa near Puno is being promoted as the Bosque Puya Raimondi.
In Bolivia - apart from Vacas Municipality, where these plants are spread throughout a small area of about 1 km² - the only other place to find Puya raimondii is Comanche mountain in Caquiaviri Canton, Caquiaviri Municipality, Pacajes Province, La Paz Department.
- Wait, Benjamin A. (1978). Journal of the Bromeliad Society 28 (5). Bromeliad Society. p. 200.
- El Perú, vol. 1, page 297. Puya. Una espinosa realidad (Puya. One Thorny Reality) (Spanish)
- Bromeliad Society of San Francisco
- "Jauja". aventura4000.org (in Spanish). Retrieved 8 October 2010.
- La Puya Raimondi se nos muere (Our Puya Raimondi is Dying) (Spanish)
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