Species: Queen of the Andes (Puya raimondii)
Status: Endangered (EN)
Interesting Fact: The Queen of the Andes may take as long as 80 to 150 years to flower and will only flower once before dying.
The Queen of the Andes is best known for its spectacular flower spike, which can reach up to 10 metres high. These spikes bear over 8,000 whitish-green blooms, which turn purple with age. The Queen of the Andes is a monocarpic species, meaning that it will die after flowering for the first time. These plants produce as many as 8 to 12 million seeds, but if conditions are not suitable few seeds will survive to germination. This means that a plant that is more than a century old may never actually reproduce successfully. The Queen of the Andes grows in the harsh, high-altitude environment of the Andes in Peru and Bolivia. This highly adapted species produces an anti-freeze chemical in its sap to survive freezing temperatures.
Today, the Queen of the Andes has an extremely fragmented distribution. Vegetation destruction, grazing by livestock, fires, and the introduction of exotic species all threaten this species. The Andean region is regarded as a priority for plant conservation, meaning action is urgently required to preserve this unique ecosystem and its important vegetation.
Find out more about the Queen of the Andes on the IUCN Red List website.