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Ten-foot plant eats sheep

Posting in Science

It looks so serene and the grass so tasty. But sheep should avoid Wisley Gardens, where a killer plant lurks within.

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Travel the countryside in Britain, and you'll see sheep. I guarantee it.

So the nation's wool and mutton purveyors had best hope that the scientists over at the Royal Horticultural Society know what they're doing.

Meat eater. The Puya chilensis.

They're caring for a 10-foot tall plant near London that eats sheep. The Puya chilensis is native to Chile, where its razor sharp spikey spines ensnare sheep and other creatures, pinning the unfortunate animals to the plant's base so that they slowly starve to death and turn to fertilizer.

The excited folks at the RHS  expect their Puya chilensis to bloom in the next few days. That will be cause for celebration, because, as the BBC notes, "very few specimens of Puya chilensis were known to have flowered in the U.K."

The RHS keeps Puya indoors at a greenhouse in Surrey. Pardon my science fiction imagination, but I can't help thinking of Puya proliferating as pollen goes airborne, and that sort of thing.

Let's hope not. Otherwise it could be bye bye black sheep. And white. And...

Photos: Wisley Gardens from Patche99z via Wikimedia. Puya chilensis from Penarc via Wikimedia.

— By on June 19, 2013, 11:25 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure