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Turquoise Puya

Cavendishia grandifolia

This is a close look at the amazing Cavendishia grandifolia.  This "holy grail" among plant collectors is found only in the rain forests of Ecuador.  Throughout the year it makes a chorus line of otherworldly blooms that look like alien candy!  Even without blooms it's an impressive plant, with huge, thick leaves that are super attractive.  This gets to be a pretty large plant, but if you have the space for it, it is easy and vigorous.  It is almost never seen for sale - I don't know anyone currently offering it.

Cavendishia grandifolia

This blueberry relative makes long, arching shoots that can get over 10 feet long.  You can cut them back to any size you wish, but keep in mind a shoot only flowers once it gets about 4 feet long.  The species name grandifolia refers to the oversized leaves, which are usually about 15 inches long, but can get almost 2 feet on mature plants!  Its glossy leaves hang downward to shed rainfall and are surprisingly rigid and durable. 

The blooms emerge on a stalk near each leaf that gets about 6 to 12 inches long, each with about 20 to 30 flowers.  The 2 inch blooms are white or greenish-white, and topped with a pink cap that has a distinctive, zigzagging line.  Most of the blooms are topped with bright pink bracts to attract hummingbirds.  After flowering, it makes attractive, magenta fruit that turn upward to be more inviting to animals.  Researchers have found that it's a "superfruit", with much higher levels of healthy antioxidants than blueberries!  The fruits are lightly sweet and tart.

Cavendishia grandifolia

Cavendishia grandifolia

It grows fine in either cool, intermediate, or warm conditions.  I don't think it will be happy below 45 degrees F (7C), and probably won't tolerate frost.  It enjoys filtered light, and will probably need some protection from strong afternoon sun.  This rain forest plant doesn't need lots of light to grow and flower.  It likes a loose, "chunky" soil mix that's slightly acidic.  A typical mix is 1 part orchid bark, 1 part peat moss or coco fiber, and 1 part perlite, coarse sand, or pumice rock.  Keep the soil evenly moist.  Over about 40% humidity is best for it.

 

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Photo #3 courtesy of Ryan Somma

 

 

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