Sapphire Tower plan blooms in Encinitas. Photo by John Bryant
Sapphire Tower plan blooms in Encinitas. Photo by John Bryant

Anza-Borrego Desert isn’t the only local destination for flower fans.

At the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, the unusual Puya alpestris — aka Sapphire Tower — is in bloom.

Sapphire Tower at San Diego Botanice Garden. Photo by Jeremy Bugarchich

Characterized by unearthly, metallic-looking deep turquoise blooms, the flower often causes visitors to say “Is this REAL?” say garden officials.

Native to South America, this Chilean species is a member of the pineapple family, with flowers measuring 2 inches across with a number of them blooming up an 18 inch spike (or tower) over two to three weeks.

Sapphire Towers are in bloom in two areas of the garden — one in the South American Desert Garden, the other in the Australia Garden.

According to former Horticulture Director Dave Ehrlinger, these specimens were most likely planted by Ruth Larabee, former owner of the property that now houses more than 4,000 species of plants in 29 themed gardens over 37 acres.

The botanic garden is open 9 to 5 daily at 230 Quail Gardens Drive, which runs parallel to Interstate 5 between Encinitas and Leucadia boulevards. Abdul admission is $14. Seniors, students and active military are charged $10, and children ages 3-12 get in for $8.

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