This is Puya chilensis, a plant found in Chile. Did you know it's the botanical equivalent of an Edgar Allan Poe story? Here's why this plant is a house of horrors.

Puya chilensis grows in arid climates along hillsides. It tends to grow in areas near the ocean, where people weave its fibers into durable netting that resists rotting in damp areas. So the plant is a survivor, despite facing the notable challenges of rocky soil, lack of water, and salt exposure from the sea.


How does it survive, you might ask. For the most part, it survives the way every other plant does, painstakingly harvesting carbon from the air and power from the sun. Occasionally, though, it needs a little more than that. And that is when it does things that should make your hair stand on end.

The top picture of the plant makes it look as if it could be in anyone's garden. A closer picture shows it to be not quite garden friendly. The thing is covered in spikes, especially on the outer edge of those long, thin, dense leaves that crowd around its base. What do you suppose it does with those? Here's a hint: Puya chilensis has been informally given the name "the sheep-eating plant." It's not unusual to find hairy mammals or small birds trapped in the plant's leaves.


The plant doesn't eat them directly. It's not carnivorous. It just lets them die. Their corpses rot (perhaps attracting more animals with their scent) and fertilize the dirt around the plant. Puya chilensis can then absorb the nutrients from the animals it trapped and slowly starved to death, and go on with its happy life.

[Sources: The Plant-book, Sheep-Eating Plant Opens Up After 15 Years.]