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June 2017 Plant of the Month - Puya alpestris ‘ Sapphire Tower’

sapphire towerPuya alpestris, also known as the Sapphire Tower, is a species of bromeliad native to the Chilean Andes.  A member of the pineapple family, the Sapphire Tower is characterized by unearthly, metallic-looking, deep turquoise blooms that are punctuated by bright orange anthers.  The flowers measure 2” across with a number of them blooming up an 18” spike (or tower) over a 2-3 week time frame.

Puyas like plenty of sun and water during the summer growing season and require dry soil during cold temperatures. They can survive temperatures as low as 18 degrees for a time. This feature makes them an ideal plant for growing outdoors in many parts of the United States that will not support other more fragile bromeliads.

The Sapphire Tower can be found around SFO along North Access Road and at the Mel Leong Treatment Plant.

Fun Fact: Some Puyas are protocarnivourous. This means that animals can become trapped and entangled in their spines, ultimately dying.  As they decompose, they provide nutrients for the plants through the soil.