In Depth

Beware, the sheep-eating plants of Chile

The Puya chilensis grows in the Chilean Andes and traps sheep before feeding off their decaying bodies

Image removed. Image removed.Was The Day of the Triffids in fact a documentary based on the life cycle of the Puya chilensis? The macabre desert plant appears to have a knack for luring sheep to their deaths and then feasting on the remains.

Where is it found?

The Puya chilensis grows in arid climates along hillsides in Chile. It is usually found in areas near the ocean.

It actually eats sheep?

Indirectly, yes. The Puya chilensis traps the animals in the sharp spikes that protrude from its base. Eventually, the helpless animals die and decay. This fertilises the soil around the plant, providing much-needed nutrients for the roots. The scent of the decomposition sometimes attracts other animals and birds, adding to the feast.

Should I be frightened?

The plants are not set to stage a Day of the Triffids-style takeover just yet. However, they have grown in Britain, the BBC reports. Botanists at the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden in Wisley, Surrey, nurtured one that finally bloomed in the summer of 2013, 11 years after they had planted it.

Did they have to feed it sheep?

No, they fed their specimen on liquid fertiliser. No sheep were harmed. "It's growing in the arid section of our glasshouse with its deadly spikes well out of reach of both children and sheep alike,” [3]a horticulturalist told the BBC’s reporter, who was dressed as a sheep.

Image removed. Image removed.

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