Flower known as 'Andean Queen' blooms at UC, Berkeley - KCTV5

Rare flower provides sight most people will never see again

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The Andean Queen located at the University of California Botanical Garden was decades ahead of schedule when it bloomed this month. (Source: KPIX/CBS) The Andean Queen located at the University of California Botanical Garden was decades ahead of schedule when it bloomed this month. (Source: KPIX/CBS)

BERKELEY, CA (KPIX/CBS) - An exotic plant that shows its flowers once every century provided a once-in-a-lifetime event when it became the youngest of its species ever to bloom.

The Puya raimondii, also known as "The Queen of the Andes," located at the University of California, Berkeley was planted from a seed brought back by a research expedition to Bolivia. It had been sitting quietly 24 years until recently.

In its native environment, the plant usually takes 80 to 100 years to bloom, making it the world's youngest blossoming Andean Queen.

"I've been here 11 years, and I've checked it every year dreaming it might bloom so I could see one in my lifetime," said Paul Licht, director of the UC Botanical Garden.

It's taken about a month for the bloom to get as large as it has, but a month from now it could be 30 feet tall and covered with more than 30,000 flowers. The plant normally grows above a 12,000-foot elevation, which Berkeley is well below.

"They're adapted for cold, dry conditions with bad soil," Licht said. "That doesn't mean that's what they'd rather be doing. They just don't have any choice."

The Bond family, visiting from Vermont, got to see the rare flower bloom. At first they weren't that impressed.

"But as soon as you hear him starting to describe the life cycle and the process this becomes a fascination," Lynne Bond said. "We'll be talking about this forever!"

As soon as the Andean Queen finishes creating her seeds the plant will die, so another event like this may not happen for a long time.

Copyright 2014 KPIX via CBS. All rights reserved.

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