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Diatribe: The Sheep-Eating Plants Are Blooming.

06/25/2013

Sheep-eating-plant-blooms-in-UKMany of my most vivid childhood memories are of moments during family vacations that brought me much joy.  I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but the road trips that my family took during the summer months were some of the most educational opportunities presented to me as a youngster.  “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” had an entirely different meaning back then that it does now.  Without fail, each trip contained at least one stop at a Stuckey’s.  Each blue-roofed oasis, as famous in the 1970s as the golden arches are today, presented an opportunity for children to whine and beg for anything from a crocodile claw back scratcher to a pecan divinity log roll.

StuckeysLogoStuckey’s had cornered the market on cheesy vacation souvenirs.  Almost every trip included the purchase of a rabbit’s foot key chain, several minutes studying the Drinking Bird and a last-ditch effort to obtain a small potted tree by the cash register.  Sadly, a Venus Fly Trap was against house rules no matter how severely I pouted, whined and complained.

Puya chilensis, also known as the “sheep-eating plant”, has been growing at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden Wisley in the United Kingdom for fifteen years.  The plant has grown to be ten feet tall and, for the first time, blossoms measuring two inches across have appeared.

SheepEatingPlantThe plant, native to the Andes Mountains of Chile, uses its huge spikes to trap the sheep that live there.  Sharp spines on the tips of the plants’ leaves catch the animals who then starve to death and decompose at its base, becoming fertilizer.

“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.” – Cara Smith, RHS Garden Wisley

Although many are lost to fire, the strange plant is not considered threatened and is still found in Chile.  Apparently, shepherds search for the plants and set fire to them to protect their flocks.

Audrey II

To this day, with the exception of Audrey II of Little Shop of Horrors fame, my life has never included carnivorous vegetation of any kind.  I’m glad that I followed house rules and settled for the little orange trees and parlor palms from Stuckey’s.  I’d never considered a houseplant to be “another mouth to feed” until learning of the sheep-eating plants of Chile.

Who knew?

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7 Comments
  1. I used to love Stuckey’s. They don’t seem to be around much here anymore. They must have retrenched. Thanks for sharing, BTG

    Like

  2. Sheep eating plants? What will they think of next?

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  3. Lovely .. 🙂

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  4. It used to upset me that my family never stopped at Stuckeys. Not any more!

    Like

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