Puya chilensis is a terrestrial bromeliad originating from the arid hillsides of Chile. An evergreen perennial, it forms large, dense rosettes of grey-green, strap-like leaves edged with hooked spines. The green or yellow flowers are borne on spikes which resemble a medieval mace, and stand up to 2 m high. Spreading by offsets, Puya chilensis can colonise large areas over time. Growth is slow and plants may take 20 years or more to flower. The outer two-thirds of the leaf blade bears outward-pointing spines which may be an adaptation to prevent herbivores from reaching the center of the plant. The plant is believed to be hazardous to sheep and birds which may become entangled in the spines of the leaves. If the animal dies, the plant may gain nutrients as the animal decomposes nearby, though this has not been confirmed. For this reason, Puya chilensis has earned the nickname "sheep-eating plant". Fibers from the leaves are used to weave durable fishing-nets.
Puya chilensis is not considered threatened. It is also cultivated in many parts of the world.
In its natural arid environment, plants can be highly flammable and are susceptible to damage from fires that are often the result of human action. Land clearance is an increasing threat.
- "Ficha de Especie Clasificada: Puya chilensis" (PDF). Clasificación de Especies (in Spanish). Ministerio del Medio Ambiente. 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
- Mabberley, D.J. (1997). The Plant Book (Second ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 599. ISBN 0-521-41421-0. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
- "Sheep-Eating Plant Opens Up After 15 Years : DNews". DNews. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
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