A HUGE plant with a fearsome reputation of being able to trap and eat sheep and small mammals is now in full bloom at a Leeds park for the first time in 15 years.
The rare South American plant will only be in flower at Golden Acre Park for a few days so anyone wanting to catch a glimpse is being urged to visit soon.
Gardeners have had to remove a section of greenhouse roof as the plant, called Puya chilensis, has grown more than two metres tall.
The Puya chilensis boasts long, aloe-like leaves lined with spines.
In its native Chile, these spines have been known to trap sheep and small mammals, which has led the plant to be commonly referred to as the ‘sheep eater’.
Despite the grisly nickname, the plant doesn’t actually eat the animals.
Scientists believe the animals trapped in the spikes starve to death and eventually decompose at the base of the plant. The plant then feeds off the remains.
The flower head contains clusters of shocking chartreuse-yellow flowers that are pollinated by birds.
The outward-pointing tips act as perches for these birds, so they can be comfortable as they tuck in to the nectar inside.
The leaves of the Puya chilensis at Golden Acre Park have now formed a huge spike after a 15-year wait, pushing the plant to over two metres high.
The rise of the plant left staff at Golden Acre Park with no choice but to quickly remove a section of the greenhouse roof to allow the plant to reach its full potential.
Sadly, this fascinating species is vanishing fast in its natural habitat and is approaching extinction, so it’s very rare to have an opportunity to see it, especially in the UK.
Coun Mohammed Rafique, Leeds City Council’s executive member for environment and sustainability, said: “The team at Golden Acre Park have waited 15 years to see the rare Puya chilensis finally burst into bloom and the spectacular plant definitely hasn’t disappointed.
“Although its reputation as a sheep eater makes it sounds terrifying to some, we can assure visitors that it is being safely grown in our greenhouse and is completely safe to visit.
“I urge you to go and see the plant this week while it’s still flowering – if you miss it, you could be waiting at least another decade for your chance.”