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Origin and Habitat: Puya laxa comes from near Pulquina in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
- Puya laxa L.B.Sm.
ENGLISH: Hay Stack Puya
Description: Puya laxa is a tough, slow growing evergreen terrestrial bromeliad that forms 30-40 cm tall clumps that spread 90-120 cm or more and is much more compact than most puya. It has wispy stems that hold 30 cm wide open rosettes. The leaves are long, recurved, twisting and smothered in silver-white wooly fuzz, and margined with tiny recurved teeth. Some of the most beautiful foliage of any Puya species. Unlike most of the species, the flowers of P. laxa are small, almost hidden in an odd, dingy inflorescence up to 90 cm tall, but of such an intense royal purple or dark violet, you wish they were larger or more prominent.
Leaves: Very thick at least 27 cm long; sheaths suborbicular, 3 cm long, glabrous toward base densely serrulate toward apex; blades narrowly triangular, caudate-acuminate with a long entire apex, laxly serrate below with slender antrorse brown spines 5 mm long, densely tomentose with coarse white scales especially beneath.
Inflorescence: Up to 90 cm high, red , holdin loosely spaced thin tubular flowers. Scape, 4 mm in diameter, mostly exposed, soon glabrous; scape-bracts ovate, thin, the lower ones with small oliaceous blades, the upper merely acuminate, entire, much shorter than the internodes. Inflorescence laxly bipinnate, soon glabrous except for the white-puberulent pedicels. Primary bracts broadly ovate, apiculate, entire, to 25 mm. long, thin, mostly about half as long as the sterile bases of the branches.Branches spreading, straight, very slender, lax, the lateral ones to 23 cm. long; floral bracts broadly ovate, apiculate, to 13 mm long, slightly exceeding the pedicels, entire, membranaceous.
Flowers: Thin tubular, dark violet to purple in the exterior and dark blackish purple on the interior, flared, with an external green stripe. Pedicels slenderly cylindric. Sepals lance-oblong, apiculate, 17 mm long, thin, sulcate, slightly carinate at base; petals 30 mm long, naked.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Mary Irish “A Place All Our Own: Lives Entwined in a Desert Garden” University of Arizona Press, 10 November 2012
2) Peter Clough, Philip McMillan Browse, “Gardening on the Edge: Drawing on the Cornwall Experience” Alison Hodge Publishers, 2004
3) “Flora Neotropica”, Edition 14, Part 1, Organization for Flora Neotropica, 1974
4) Alma L. and Harold N. Moldenke, “Phytologia”, Volume 6, 1957
5) San Marcos Growers contributors “Puya laxa - Hay Stack Puya”, San Marcos Growers <http://www.smgrowers.com>. Web. 15 August 2018.
Cultivation and Propagation: Puya laxa makes a nice drought tolerant groundcover that is resistant to deer predation and attractive to hummingbirds.
Plant in full sun to light shade in a well-drained soil.
Hardiness: This species is extremely drought and frost tolerant – It can tolerate -8 Celsius Degrees without damage.
Warnings: Though it looks soft to the touch, use caution and gloves as its looks are deceiving with irritating tiny sharp recurved spines that will grab unwary hands.
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