A man surveys a flowering Queen of the Andes plant—which blooms only once in its 80- to 100-year lifetime—near Thumi, Bolivia, (see map) in a picture taken last week.
The exotic plant blooms for a few weeks before it dies. Even before it blooms, though, the Queen of the Andes has a regal presence, towering up to 40 feet (12 meters) in its mountain habitats of Peru and Bolivia.
"This is by almost any standard an extreme plant," said Antonio Lambe, who works to preserve the Queen of the Andes through the nonprofit Acción Ambiental. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the plant as endangered, due to habitat loss and declining genetic diversity.
"It grows in very harsh conditions at very high altitude, and it's head and shoulders above anything else in the area. How something that big could live in that harsh of an environment is, to me, one of the wonders of nature."