Far Out Flora

Puya Alert! Puya Alert!


Puya chilensis

Freaky Bromeliad alert! On Friday I went to the San Francisco Botanical Garden for what may have been the last time while living here in SF. I must have spent at least four hours walking around visiting all my favorite plants. While wandering around the CA Native section back by the greenhouses I ran in to Derek of Plantgasm finishing up his propagation volunteer time. I had seen these crazy Puyas getting ready to bloom maybe a month ago, so we headed over to see what was going on and check out succulent land one last time.

Puya chilensis I think

I couldn’t find a sign, so I’m guessing this is Puya chilensis. Anyone know for sure?


Puya alpestris

Puya alpestris is still blooming. It looks like the Puya venusta should be doing its thing in a couple weeks, too.


Matti and the Puya

I took this pic back on March 18th and the bloom pictured is now shot. The bud to the right is blooming right now.

The Succulent Garden

I hate to get all mushy and stuff, but the San Francisco Botanical Garden is where we received the majority of our plant education. Nearly three years ago Matti and I enrolled in Plant Identification class at City College with Malcolm Hillan, it changed our lives. We spent two semesters of Saturdays at the botanical garden from 9 to 1, learning anywhere from 12-15 plants per class. We had to learn it all including family name, genus, species, origin, zone, sun, water, and spelling counted on quizzes and tests. Matti and I were both pretty freaked out after the first class when we could barely remember all the details for our first plant California native, Platanus racemosa and knew we had 149 more plants to go. Thanks Malcolm and our favorite classmates Rene and Johanna for making it so much fun!

p.s. the CA Native section is going off right now, too!


  1. I’ve always wondered how you came to know so much about plant identification! This is a good tip, I’ll have to see if my local botanical gardens has any similar classes. Ironic, since I was just there this morning. Ha.

  2. Super cool… love those blue/green flowers. It’s something you’d never notice without looking up close.

    (can’t wait to read the blog from your new digs!)

  3. As much as I love Puyas they are a little scary. Can you imagine falling into that first one? Or what if a neighborhood dog got stuck in it? I am afraid to put my Puya berteroniana in the ground.

    Know what you mean about getting all mushy. I still have such fond memories of the New Jersey Botanical Garden which I visited every week and taught myself gardening when I first started out and the New York Botanical Garden where I went to school and worked.

    • Yeah, Matti & I had one for a couple months until a gopher got it. I have to admit I wasn’t very sad about its death. They’re more of a gigantic botanical garden plant that’s fun to look at, but you don’t have to actually pull the weeds that are bound to get stuck between the spiny rosettes type of plant.

  4. Aren’t they great! The SF Botanical Society does have classes on Saturdays for those who want some more plant knowledge. Also, they have docent lead walks every day so take a stroll with a docent and enjoy some new found information while enjoying the fantastic plants brought from all over the world. I teach the children botany there & every day the garden changes!

  5. The color of the Puya alpestris flowers is just mesmerizing. I have a young one that has been languishing in a pot at my parents’ house in Michigan for a number of years; unfortunately I probably will not be able to give it adequate growing conditions to reach flowering size any time in the near future.

  6. PUYA ALERT! OMG, I wish I could see a Puya in person someday. BTW, I’m really going to miss your succulent posts when you go to Wisconsin. Boo.

    • They pretty cool! We’re still going to blog about succulents, they’re just going to be hard core zone 5 succulents. We just shipped two big boxes of cuttings back :)

  7. i can’t believe that i “discovered” your blog right when you are moving. well, i do see that there are a bunch of older posts to catch up on. bon voyage.

  8. Thank you for the heads up that the Puyas are blooming in the Botanical Garden–sounds like a good weekend plan to me! p.s. I can’t wait to see how your blog evolves when you return to Zone 5. Your blog was the first garden blog I ever read (thanks to your sweet comments on my SFFGS display garden back in 2010). I owe both of you, big-time, for getting me hooked on garden blogs! Oh, and congratulations. :)

  9. What a glorious place that is! I saw this beautiful plant but alas it was not blooming yet. thanks for showing us!

  10. You are so lucky to see Puya alpestris from so close, I only seen it at Eden project in UK, but from very far away. Luckily i bought Puya alpestris from there myself, i doubt it will ever grow to this size as of UK weather. I love your blog, very beautiful photos.

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