January 30, 2012
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The towering Puya raimondii is the world's largest bromeliad. Photo by: Giacomo Sellan.
Found in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia, the world's biggest bromeliad Puya raimondii is imperiled by climate change and human disturbances.
"This is a special plant, the largest of the Bromelias family, plants that we usually imagine as a red-greenish pile on the branches of other trees, plants from extremely wet habitats and with extremely weird habits. But this one is different, it can reach 10 meters in height when it's flowering. The sub-inflorescences are composed of 30-40 flowers, and they can hardly be held in one's hand," Giacomo Sellan, a student at the University of Padua, told mongabay.com.
Listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the population in Bolivia is especially vulnerable.
"Its natural habitat, the Andean puna, is extremely threatened because of grazing and miners. Shepherds cut them down because its leaves are surrounded with great thorns, that sometimes hurts grazing cattle grazing on those places, leading them to infection and, if not cured, death," says Sellan. The Red List references similar stories, but has not received verification of these concerns. Fire to maintain pasture and burning for fuels are also major problems.
Sellan says tourism around the magnificent plants could help save them and aid locals in a largely impoverished region of Bolivia.
Puya raimondii in Peru. Photo by: Pepe Roque.